Fewer antibiotic prescriptions are being filled in Alabama, matching national trend

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Young woman pediatrician performs a vaccination of a little girl. The girl is holding a mascot.

BIRMINGHAM, AL – Antibiotic prescription fill rates are declining in Alabama and nationally, and pediatricians are leading the way.  Appropriate prescribing of antibiotics is critically important because the overuse or misuse of antibiotics can render the drug ineffective over time and allow diseases to build resistance against antibiotic treatments.


According to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA), Alabama ranks second among states in the rate of antibiotic prescription fill rates among Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama commercially insured members; however, Alabama’s fill rates have declined eight percent over the last seven years. The study further shows this decline varies largely by city, from a 22 percent decline in Anniston to a one percent decline in Auburn/Opelika and Florence.

Prescription fill rates for broad-spectrum antibiotics, which treat a wide range of bacteria and are the antibiotics most likely to contribute to the creation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, have declined five percent in Alabama. These fill rates vary among cities from a one percent increase in Auburn/Opelika to a 27 percent decline in Anniston.

Pediatricians in Alabama have led the way in curtailing antibiotics use, with prescriptions filled for children dropping 14 percent since 2010. These declines vary from a 28 percent decrease in Gadsden to a six percent reduction in Decatur and Dothan.

Image: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama


Findings from the national BCBSA report, “Antibiotic Prescription Fill Rates Declining in the U.S.,” show that efforts to increase awareness of excessive antibiotic use and of the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria may be achieving measurable results:

  • Antibiotic prescription fill rates have declined nine percent nationally among BCBS commercially insured members from 2010 through 2016.
  • The steepest decline (13 percent) has been in broad-spectrum antibiotics.
  • Pediatricians continue to lead the way in reducing antibiotics usage, with prescriptions filled for children dropping 16 percent compared to just 6 percent for adults. Broad-spectrum antibiotic prescription fill rates for newborns and infants (up to one year old) have declined 22 percent.
  • Wide regional variations in antibiotic prescription fill rates exist, with the highest prescribing states in Appalachia and the South (e.g., Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi), filling nearly three times as many prescriptions per person as the lowest prescribing states. In addition, prescription fill rates in rural areas are 16 percent higher than in urban areas.
  • In 21 percent of all treatment cases, physicians continue to prescribe antibiotics for conditions where their use is not likely to be effective. These findings indicate further improvements need to be made.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama is working to reinforce appropriate use of antibiotics through several programs. “Since 2009, we have collaborated with our provider partners to develop value-based payment opportunities for physicians with the goal of enhancing overall patient care,” said Darrel Weaver, M.D., Vice President, Healthcare Network Services, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama.  “Several of our physician measurement and value-based incentive programs have included a focus on appropriate antibiotic usage, most specifically for bronchitis, sore throat and upper respiratory infections.”

 About the Health of America Report Series

This is the fifteenth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report series, produced through a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into healthcare affordability and access to care.

For more information, visit www.bcbs.com/healthofamerica .

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama provided the above release to WHNT News 19.


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