Washington: A new analysis has found that doctors prescribe antibiotics to a vast majority of people who see them for sore throats or acute bronchitis, despite the fact that only a small percentage of them should be given the drugs.
Harvard University researchers analyzed the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and determined that doctors prescribed antibiotics in 60 percent of visits for sore throats and 73 percent of visits for acute bronchitis. The antibiotic prescribing rate should be about 10 percent for sore throats and nearly zero for acute bronchitis.
The analyses suggest that despite of repeated warnings, patients are continuing to request antibiotics for conditions they don't cure, and doctors are prescribing them. The inappropriate use of antibiotics adds to the creation of drug-resistant bacteria, or "superbugs," which are very difficult to treat and are a public health threat.
Senior author of the study, Jeffrey A. Linder, said that people need to understand that by taking antibiotics for viral infections, they're putting something in their bodies that they don't need.
To assess the antibiotic prescribing rate for sore throat, researchers determined there were 94 million visits to primary care physicians and emergency rooms for sore throats between 1997 and 2010, based on an extrapolation of 8,191 visits. Physicians prescribed antibiotics 60 percent of the time, a decrease from 73 percent from numbers reported by the same authors in 2001.
Regarding acute bronchitis, researchers calculated there were 39 million visits to primary care physicians and emergency rooms between 1996 and 2010, based on a extrapolation of 3,667 actual visits. Researchers determined there was a significant increase in the number of visits for acute bronchitis to primary care doctors, from 1.1 million in 1996 to 3.4 million in 2010.
They also noted an increase in the antibiotic prescribing rate in emergency rooms, from 69 percent to 73 percent, during the same 14-year period.
The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.