By Emily Tiry, Staff Editor
The Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy recently released findings on antibiotic use in the United States. While overall antibiotic use declined between 1999 and 2007 to 0.86 prescriptions per person per year, it varies widely among states and regions. West Virginia and Kentucky had the highest rates, with averages over double that of Alaska, the state with the lowest rate. Interestingly, antibiotic use tends to be higher in the eastern half of the country than in the west.
No one is really sure what is causing these disparities, but they may have important public health implications. Overuse of antibiotics, even only in one region, can increase the number of drug-resistant organisms. These organisms can then spread to other regions, reducing antibiotic effectiveness everywhere. The reduction of overall antibiotic use is a promising sign. However, we should also keep in mind the existing regional disparities, and consider questions about the underlying cause of the disparities and how we can reduce them.