Study: Millions of Americans are wrongly prescribed medications resulting in antibiotic resistance

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A new study in the British Medical Journal found over 40% of antibiotic prescriptions in the U.S. were given when they shouldn’t have been. That means millions of Americans were getting antibiotics when they didn’t need them.

Researchers studied healthcare visits in 2015. In those visits, they found 130 million prescriptions were written and 13% of them were for antibiotics.

In those cases, 57% were written for a condition or illness where antibiotics are supposed to work. The study classifies those as “appropriate reasons.” But it found that 43% were classified as “not necessary.” In that 43%, 25% of prescriptions were said to be “inappropriate,” meaning patients were prescribed antibiotics for an illness or conditions that couldn’t necessarily be treated with the drug—think cold or flu symptoms. In 18% of the antibiotic prescriptions, doctors didn’t give a reason at all for prescribing the drug.

What the study found is that millions of people in the U.S. are getting prescribed antibiotics when they don’t need them. In turn, some are becoming resistant to antibiotics.

CDC researchers estimate 35,000 people die each year in the U.S. because of antibiotic-resistant infections. The World Health Organization says that is one of the largest threats to global health.

It becomes a dangerous situation because now it means some doctors have to turn to stronger drugs to treat some illnesses which can mean stronger and more harmful side effects for patients.

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