How Many Antibiotics Are Prescribed Each Year in the US

Antibiotic prescribing is a heated issue in patient care these days. The number of antibiotics prescribed alone is alarming. The number of antibiotics prescribed without genuine need is additionally startling. While the CDC is working to limit the number of and the parameters involved in prescribed antibiotics, consumers can help the situation by becoming educated on the use of antibiotics and possibly reject prescriptions or abstain from use when possible and safe.

How many antibiotics are prescribed each year?

According to the CDC, about 269 million antibiotic prescriptions were distributed to patients through outpatient pharmacies in 2015. That is enough prescriptions to arm five out every six people with one antibiotic per year.

Antibiotics are prescribed unnecessarily

What is worse is that about thirty percent of those prescriptions were unnecessary. The CDC reported that each year, 47 million antibiotic prescriptions are written unnecessarily in doctors’ offices and energy departments.

The most common unnecessary prescriptions are written for respiratory conditions that are caused by viruses, unresponsive to antibiotics, or by bacterial infections, which the body does not need antibiotics to cure.

The problem with prescribing antibiotics when the body does not physically require the aid is that the patient taking said prescription develops a resistance to the antibiotic. When a health matter arises that requires an antibiotic to resolve even a small instance of illness, that antibiotic is of no use, because the bacteria will no longer respond to the drug to kill them.

Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem plaguing the country, and it will only worsen as patients are given more prescriptions without needing them. The CDC is working to prevent backlash from overprescribing by initiating antibiotic stewardship, a set of protocols and ethics that help limit the frequency of unnecessary prescriptions written.

A closer look at antibiotic stewardship

Antibiotic stewardship implements standards that doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and dentists can adhere to in order to optimize patient health and to avoid antibiotic resistance.


Those participating in antibiotic stewardship vow to remain accountable for antibiotic prescription and safety.


Antibiotic stewards agree to implement at least one practice that can improve the way antibiotics are prescribed. Each practice must be evaluated and modified as needed.

Tracking and reporting

Stewardship participants agree to track prescription writing patterns and report finding to providers so that providers can evaluate antibiotic distribution, use and need.


Antibiotic stewards provide all educational and expert resources needed to optimize antibiotic prescribing and ensure that drugs are only administered when needed.

Who participates in antibiotic stewardship?

Primary care providers, outpatient specialists providers, emergency departments, retail health providers, urgent care providers, dental clinics, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and healthcare systems are all urged to participate in antibiotic stewardship.

Antibiotics and Animals

The overprescription problem detailed above takes place in prescriptions written to human patients, who account for only twenty percent of all antibiotic consumption in the country. If you just ran the math, you are not mistaken – eighty percent of all antibiotics in the United State are given to livestock, including cows, pigs, and chicken.

Antibiotics are given to livestock to help them grow faster and to keep them healthy. However, antibiotic resistance is equally threatening to animals. Should an outbreak of something simple or serious invade a livestock sector, those animals will have very little if any chance of fighting off the disease. Additionally, animals’ gut bacteria can transfer this resistance to humans, worsening further our ability to fight disease.

To learn more about antibiotic use and prescribing in the US, reach out to Mercedes Transcription.

By |2019-01-24T18:35:31+00:00May 21st, 2018|Health Professionals|0 Comments

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