The world is experiencing a superbug problem: strains of bacteria are rapidly becoming resistant to modern drugs, making them harder to treat.

However, a new study found that a significant number of antibiotics prescription are not appropriate. Researchers warned that their findings suggest that experts might have underestimated the rate of overprescription, which gives rise to superbugs.

The study was published in the journal The British Medical Journal.

Overprescription Of Antibiotics

The researchers investigated by analyzing the data from MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters, a private insurance company. It involved over 19 million people ages 0 to 64 years who filed claims for reimbursement for prescriptions of antibiotics in 2016.

The analysis revealed that 23.2 percent of the prescribed antibiotics were not appropriate, 35.5 percent were potentially appropriate, and 28.5 percent were not associated with a diagnosis which might also mean that they were inappropriate.

Roughly 2.2 million of the 14.6 million adults involved in the study had at least one antibiotic prescription that is unnecessary to treat their ailments. Of the 4.6 million children in the study, about 490,000 received inappropriate antibiotics prescription.

The most common condition for which antibiotics were prescribed inappropriately included acute bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, and cough — common illnesses caused by viruses rather than bacteria.

The Dangers Of Prescription Antibiotics Overuse

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 million people across the United States are afflicted with antibiotic-resistant infections and 23,000 of them die every year.

"Antibiotic overuse is still rampant and affects an enormous number of patients," stated Kao-Ping Chua, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan and the lead author of the study. "Despite decades of quality improvement and educational initiatives, providers are still writing antibiotic prescriptions for illnesses that would get better on their own."

Moreover, the overprescription of antibiotics is also sending children to emergency rooms for adverse drug effects. Some of the issues that arise from misuse include allergic reactions, fungal infections, and diarrhea.

The researchers hope that the study will be a wakeup call for professionals to stop prescribing antibiotics to patients who do not need them.

"Antibiotic resistance is one of the greatest threats to public health in the world, and the large number of antibiotics that providers prescribe to patients is a major driver of resistance," added Chua.

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