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Are Antibiotics Overprescribed In The South?

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PITTSBURGH (CBS NEWS) - Elderly people in the South use more antibiotics than the rest of their peers in the U.S., leading researchers to believe that doctors in the region may be overprescribing the drugs.

About 21 percent of people 65 and older in the South used an antibiotic on average each quarter of the year, compared to 17 percent of people in the West and 19 percent of people in the Midwest. There was no discernible difference in disease prevalence in any of the regions.

“Patients and providers should know that there is this problem in the South and take some efforts to reduce antibiotic overuse,” study author Dr. Yuting Zhang, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told HealthDay.

Researchers were able to determine the rates using Medicare data from January 1, 2007 though December 31, 2009. They also discovered that antibiotic use was highest during the first quarter of the year — January through March — at a rate of 20.9 percent of the population. It was lowest in the third quarter — July through September — with only 16.9 percent of people taking the antibiotics.

In addition, the South had the highest use of every type of antibiotic, especially “broad spectrum” antibiotics that are effective against a wide variety of bacteria. Zhang told Reuters this is especially worrisome because overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance. “Once you get resistance to those broad spectrum antibiotics, next time you have anything where you really need that, it’s not going to be as effective,” Zhang said to Reuters.

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