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Antibiotic Use, Costs Show Wide Regional Variations

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2012

Healthcare providers throughout the country, especially in Mississippi and Alabama and the rest of the South, need targeted education to reduce the number of Medicare patients given antibiotics without indication.

That's the conclusion of a University of Pittsburgh-led report that found wide variation in antibiotic prescribing practices in outpatient settings by state and by region. It also found that when compared with studies of geographic variation in the use of all medications, regional variation in the use of antibiotics is significantly wider.

"In the south, 21% of seniors on average per quarter were using an antibiotic, and that's 4 percentage points higher than in the west, where usage was 17%," says Yuting Zhang, assistant professor of health economics and the study's principal investigator.

Rates were higher over the course of a year, according to data from Medicare Part D data for a three-year period ending Dec. 31, 2009. "The highest rate of any antibiotic use in 2009 was 56.8% in Mississippi, and second highest was 55.6% in Alabama," she said.

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