New research shows that Louisiana is among the five states with the highest antibiotic use in the nation according to a new report for the Centers for Disease Control.
Why are doctors locally prescribing so many more? Are New Orleans area resident sick more often?
"We definitely have higher infection rates," and a small part of that may be due to more sexually transmitted diseases here says Dr. Fred Lopez with LSU Health Sciences Center, who is a Professor of Medicine and also Board Certified in Infectious Diseases.
"Many prescriptions are written for upper respiratory tract infections, and we know that most of those upper respiratory tract infections are really viral infections," says Dr. Lopez, and no antibiotic is effective against a virus. "As are result we're probably creating resistance in bacteria that colonize the nose, the airways, the mouth and as well as other areas of the body, by giving antibiotics for what is not a bacterial infection."
And the CDC seems increasingly worried about these medications being over-prescribed.
Their report shows, "Nationally, prescriptions fell to an all-time low for the past decade, marking a 17% decline between 1999-2010. However, states in Appalachia and on the Gulf Coast continue to consume more than twice the amount of antibiotics per capita than those in the Northwest and New England. More worryingly, this imbalance in rates of decrease appears to be accelerating."
Dr. Lopez says even though no antibiotic is effective against a virus, patients go to the doctor's office expecting one. He says patients need to be educated and doctors need to test for infections before dispensing any antibiotics.
The research is part of ResistanceMap, an on-line tool for tracking changes in drug resistance. This year's ResistanceMap will feature analysis using a Drug Resistance Index, a way for non-experts to track changes in antibiotic effectiveness over time.