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Study shows overuse of antibiotics

U.S. doctors are prescribing enough antibiotics to give them to 4 out of 5 Americans every year, an alarming pace that suggests they are being overused, a new government study finds.

Overuse is one reason antibiotics are losing their punch, making infections harder to treat. The report issued yesterday gives the first detailed look at the use of these medicines in every state and finds it highest in the South and in Appalachia.

There is no scientific consensus on an appropriate level of antibiotic prescribing. But some experts said the new study's results are disturbing, and that rates are probably excessive, even in states with the lowest antibiotic prescription levels.

Antibiotics have been commonly available since the 1940s, and have done wonders at saving patients with infections. But bacteria have increasingly gained the power to shrug off antibiotics.

Chances of resistance increase when antibiotics aren't used long enough or are taken for the wrong reasons, experts say, allowing bacteria to survive and adapt.

CDC researchers analyzed a national prescription drug database for 2010. The findings are in today's New England Journal of Medicine. -- AP

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