Almost 25% of Prescriptions Unneeded.


Of the 15,500,000 antibiotic prescriptions filled in a recent 12-month period by a population of 19,200,000 privately insured children and adults under age 65, nearly one-quarter were unnecessary, according to a study funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, Md.

The study concludes that an additional 36% of antibiotic prescriptions were only "potentially appropriate." The analysis provides the most-comprehensive estimates to date of inappropriate prescribing of antibiotics among people with private, employer-sponsored insurance. Appropriate antibiotic prescribing means that the medication is recommended for the patient's condition.

"This study shows how data and analytics can help us identify and understand important challenges facing the American health-care system," says AHRQ Director Gopal Khanna. "We now need to use this data to spur change in the prescribing of these very common medications."

The study was conducted by researchers at the Northwestern University School of Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, and Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Their findings were based on a combined analysis of a U.S. medical claims database and international system for categorizing diseases.

Researchers' analysis of the data showed that, of the 15,500,000 filled antibiotic prescriptions, 3,600,000 were prescribed for conditions for which an antibiotic is almost never recommended, such as...

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