Study Finds Fewer Antibiotic Prescriptions Are Being Filled

Fewer antibiotic prescriptions are being filled nationally, according to a new study released by Blue Cross Blue Shield. The study cited a nine percent drop since 2010, attributing the change to public health campaigns educating people about the dangers of antibiotics overuse.

Publix First To Offer Free Antibiotics To Customers

A Publix Supermarket pharmacy manager counts out the correct number of antibiotic pills to fill a prescription. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

“Since 2010, antibiotic prescription rates in the U.S. have been declining among the commercially insured population, falling 9 percent during this period,” Blue Cross wrote on its website. “This decline indicates that considerable progress is being made in public health campaigns to limit the use of antibiotics and prevent the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

The report, titled “Antibiotic Prescription Fill Rates Declining in the U.S.,” is the result of a study of outpatient medical claims from BCBS members who filled prescriptions for antibiotics over a period of seven years.

The study also found that there is a wide variation in antibiotic use levels based on geographic region, with people in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi filling prescriptions at the highest rates. Conversely, the states with the lowest rates were Hawaii, Oregon and Montana. The study also found those in rural areas filled prescriptions at a 16 percent higher rate than those in urban areas.

The report on the study also pointed out that in 21 percent of cases, patients were given antibiotics for cases for which they were unlikely to be an effective treatment, BCBS deemed. In these questionable cases, broad-spectrum antibiotics were prescribed 75 percent of the time.

Prescription bottles at Publix

Bottles of antibiotics line a shelf at a Publix Supermarket pharmacy. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The term broad-spectrum antibiotics refers to antibiotics that act against a wide range of disease-causing bacteria – in contrast to a narrow-spectrum antibiotic which is only effective against specific families of bacteria.

According to the Mayo Clinic, who states that bacteria develop a resistance to drugs over time, misuse of antibiotics has increased the number of drug-resistant germs. Common viral infections that do not benefit from antibiotic treatment include colds, influenza, stomach flu, bronchitis, most coughs and sore throats, and some ear and sinus infections.

This most recent BCBS study is the 15th in a series.