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Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing in Canada

A research study published in the October 9, 2007 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reports on the inappropriate usage of antibiotics in Canada. The study suggests that doctors who are overworked, have been trained outside Canada, or have been practicing a long time are most likely to over prescribe antibiotics.

The study by scientists at Montreal's McGill University and at Montreal General Hospital, reviewed 852 primary care physicians who became certified in Canada between 1990 and 1993. Researchers tracked these doctors for 6 to 9 years and looked at their prescribing habits for viral and bacterial infections. Researchers also looked at records of 729 patients, who had a total of 3,526 visits during the study period.

One of results that the study showed that was doctors who were not University of Montreal graduates and were trained outside Canada were more likely to prescribe antibiotics for viral upper respiratory infections, a condition for which antibiotics are totally useless and could create problems.

The study authors noted in their report, "Both the use of antibiotics for the treatment of viral respiratory infections and the overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat bacterial infections promote antibiotic resistance, increase the likelihood of preventable drug-related adverse events and increase the use and cost of health-care services."

One of the interesting findings of the study was that the longer a doctor was in practice the more he or she would likely prescribe antibiotics inappropriately. The study noted that for each year that a doctor was in practice, there would be an increase of several percentage points of inappropriate prescribing. Additionally, the busier the doctor was, the more likely they would also overuse antibiotics.