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  • November 13, 2017

BCBSND Reports Decline in Outpatient Antibiotic Prescriptions Filled in North Dakota Over a Seven-year Period

Broad-spectrum antibiotics used to treat a wide range of bacteria decline by 20 percent

FARGO – The rate at which outpatient antibiotic prescriptions were filled declined 20 percent among North Dakota commercially insured members, compared to nine percent nationally from 2010 through 2016, according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

Data also show Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota (BCBSND) members filled 23 percent less broad-spectrum antibiotics, used to treat a wide range of bacteria, compared to a 13 percent decline nationally.

Pediatricians have led the way in curtailing antibiotics, with prescriptions filled for children dropping 31 percent in North Dakota. Nationally, prescriptions filled for children dropped 16 percent, and newborns and infants (up to one year old) declined 22 percent.

The report, "Antibiotic Prescription Fill Rates Declining in the U.S.," represents a comprehensive study of outpatient medical claims from Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) members who filled antibiotics over a seven-year period.

The overuse of antibiotics, which is known to cause antibiotic-resistant bacteria, has been a topic of concern among healthcare professionals and policy makers in America for many years. In particular, the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat a wide range of bacteria has been found to create antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. These resistant bacteria are immune to common medications and are difficult to treat.

In 2010, North Dakota was among the states with the highest usage of antibiotics, according to Dr. Paul Carson, Professor in the NDSU Department of Public Health, and state content expert on antimicrobial stewardship for the North Dakota Department of Health.

Although rates have declined, there is a variability in usage within the state, with rural areas often experiencing the highest usage. "While this is a great improvement that should be celebrated, there is still much work to do.  North Dakota has moved from ranking among the worst states for antibiotic overuse to now ranking about in the middle," Carson said. "But we want to be among the most judicious states that set the standard for prescribing antibiotics appropriately."