A new government study suggests doctors in the U.S. are handing out too many prescriptions for antibiotics. Enough antibiotics are being prescribed to give them to 4 out of 5 Americans each year.
Overuse is one reason antibiotics are losing their punch, making infections harder to treat. The report released today gives the first detailed look at usage of these medicines in every state and finds it highest in the South and Appalachia.
Antibiotics have been commonly available since the 1940s, and have done wonders at saving patients with infections ranging from pneumonia to sexually spread diseases. But bacteria have increasingly gained the power to shrug off antibiotics.
Experts say chances of resistance increase when antibiotics are not used long enough or are taken for the wrong reasons, allowing bacteria to survive and adapt. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking at least 20 strains of resistant bacteria.
The study's findings are being published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.