Purpose: To measure changes in the rate and type of fluoroquinolones prescribed in the United States from 1995 to 2002.
Methods: We performed a longitudinal analysis of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey of adult visits to physicians in ambulatory clinics and emergency departments throughout the United States from 1995 to 2002. The main outcomes were fluoroquinolone prescribing rates and prescribing in accordance with Food and Drug Administration approval as of December 2002.
Results: Between 1995 and 2002, fluoroquinolones became the most commonly prescribed class of antibiotics to adults in the United States. Fluoroquinolone prescribing rose threefold, from 7 million visits in 1995 to 22 million visits in 2002 (P < 0.0001). Fluoroquinolone prescribing increased as a proportion of overall antibiotic prescribing (from 10% to 24%; P < 0.0001) and as a proportion of the U.S. population (from 39 to 106 prescriptions per 1000 adults; P < 0.001). These increases were due to the use of newer fluoroquinolones with activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae. Forty-two percent of fluoroquinolone prescriptions were for nonapproved diagnoses. Among patients receiving antibiotics, nonapproved fluoroquinolone prescribing increased over time (odds ratio = 1.18 per year; 95% confidence interval: 1.13 to 1.24).
Conclusion: Fluoroquinolone prescribing increased threefold in outpatient clinics and emergency departments in the United States from 1995 to 2002. Fluoroquinolones became the most commonly prescribed class of antibiotics to adults in 2002. Nonapproved fluoroquinolone prescribing was common and increased over time. Such prescribing patterns are likely to be followed by an increasing prevalence of fluoroquinolone-resistant bacteria.