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Study Shows More Antibiotics Prescribed To Elderly Patients In The South

Elderly patients in the southern states might need to be more cautious when it comes to their medications.  A recent study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh shows doctors are more likely to prescribe antibiotics to older patients in the south than any other region in the United States.

Researchers found substantial geographic and seasonal variation in antibiotic use, which continued after adjusting for regional differences. Yuting Zang, a member of the research team and an assistant professor of health economics at Pitt, said the large elderly population of the South did not play a part in the findings.

 “The variable we controlled for include all the demographics like age, gender, race, and then health status, measured by different conditions, health conditions, and prior year use of all kinds of medical spending,” Zang said.

In the South, an average of 21.4 percent of people in outpatient settings filled an antibiotic prescription between 2007 and 2009. In the West, 17.4 percent were prescribed antibiotics, 19.2 percent filled prescriptions in the Midwest, and 18.2 percent of patients took antibiotics in the Northeast.

The time of year also appeared to influence antibiotic use. The rates were highest from January through March, which is during the usual flu season, at 20.9 percent and lowest was during the summer from July through September at 16.9 percent.  From April to June, the rate was 18.5 percent while the rate from October through December was 19.8 percent.

Zang said the Western region, which showed the lowest rate, could be a model for the southern states to follow in trying to lower the numbers. “We could sort of use those as a reference level so like, a target level. We know there are regions that could do as well as them, so sort of the policy could set up that way,” Zang said.

One of the problems with frequent use of antibiotics is the chance of becoming immune to their effects and elderly patients have an increased susceptibility to side effects and allergic reactions. Therefore, Zang says physicians should be extra careful not to prescribe unnecessary antibiotics to their older patients.