Reduction in antibiotic prescriptions in Massachusetts leads national trend

Newly compiled data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association indicates that the nation — particularly the state of Massachusetts — has substantially lowered the number of outpatient prescriptions for antibiotics, association sources announced recently from Boston.

The Health of America Report, produced jointly by Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Chicago-based Blue Health Intelligence and titled "Antibiotic Prescription Fill Rates Declining in the U.S.," revealed that the Bay State registered better-than-average numbers in two aspects.

First, the rate of filling general antibiotic prescriptions dropped 11 percent statewide compared to the U.S. rate of 9 percent; and secondly, orders specifically for broad spectrum antibiotics — those known to be more likely to contribute to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains — dropped by 15 percent, compared to the nation’s 13 percent.

Dr. Bruce Nash, who serves as chief physician executive for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA), called the results heartening, citing public awareness as potentially helpful to the trend.

"This report is encouraging, since it shows that efforts to increase awareness of the risk of excessive use of antibiotics may be reducing the inappropriate use of these medications," Nash said, noting that BCBSMA’s value-based payment model was helping. "For example, 97 percent of our pediatric members were treated appropriately for viral upper respiratory infections and did not receive an antibiotic.”

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association comprises a consortium of 36 independent local BCBS companies.

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