Antibiotic Use Overview

Antibiotic Use Overview

What are the most dispensed antibiotic classes and where is consumption most intensive?

Background

The emergence and spread of resistant pathogens are intrinsically linked to the way we consume antibiotics. Every time an antibiotic is used, whether to save a life or to “treat” a viral infection that it cannot cure, the future effectiveness of that drug is diminished. To complicate matters, once a bacteria develops resistance to a given antibiotic, it often will not respond to other antibiotics that share similar modes of action. To design policies that minimize misuse and overuse of antibiotics, it is essential to monitor and understand patterns of antibiotic consumption across regions and over time.

The United States ranks among the most intensive consumers of antibiotics in the developed world. Prior research finds that use rates have decreased since their peak in the 1990s, but the nature of consumption is gradually shifting toward broad-spectrum therapies. The rapidly rising share of quinolone use we report indicates that this trend has likely continued into the current decade. Within the country, there are distinct regional patterns and use follow a North to South and West to East gradient similar to use patterns in Europe. As research from these countries has demonstrated, much of this variation may be due to overuse and misuse rather than differences in disease rates.