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Kentucky No. 1 state in overuse of antibiotics

Problem poses wide dangers to the drugs’ effectiveness

By Kentucky Health News

In 2010 the average number of dispensed outpatient antibiotic prescriptions was 801 per 1,000 Americans. In Kentucky it was 1,197. The darker the state, the higher the rate. (CDC map)

Americans, especially Kentuckians, are taking too many antibiotics and that is contributing to the decline in the drugs’ effectiveness, says a study by a group associated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that, in 2010, the five states with the highest antibiotic use were Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Such misuse is already showing up, reports USA Today, as lab reports show urinary tract infections were 30 percent more likely to resist antibiotic treatment in 2010 than in 1999.

Dr. Robert Salley, executive director of cardiovascular services for KentuckyOne Health in the Lexington market, told Cheryl Truman of the Lexington Herald-Leader that the overuse of antibiotics might reflect the state’s problem with prescription pain pills. Many Kentuckians are used to “that culture of availability, that culture of not making appropriate use of the physician-patient relationship,” he said. Experts have also noted that states that have lower rates of antibiotic use have spent money and time educating their residents about the dangers of overuse. Kentucky has not done that.

Meanwhile, the Pew Health Group has released a study showing that 87 percent of Americans have a basic understanding of what antibiotics do, but many did not understand that antibiotic resistance was a major health issue and will only become more imperative in the future. Forty-one percent of Americans said they have never heard of the issue. For more information on that study, go here.

Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.