Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island reports 15 percent decline in outpatient antibiotic prescriptions over a seven-year period


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The rate at which outpatient antibiotic prescriptions were filled declined 15 percent among Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) commercially insured members, compared to 9 percent nationally from 2010 through 2016, according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). Data also show BCBSRI members filled 20 percent fewer broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are 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 20 percent in Rhode Island. Nationally, prescriptions filled for children dropped 16 percent.

“Antibiotic resistance as a result of excessive use is a widespread problem, but these report results show that we are making progress in our collective commitment to confront this critical public health issue,” said Katherine Dallow, M.D., vice president of clinical affairs at BCBSRI. “BCBSRI remains dedicated to collaborating locally with our public health departments, providers, and members to raise awareness about when antibiotics are appropriate and when they are not. Only by working together can we ensure antibiotics remain effective over time.”

Research shows that excessive use or misuse of antibiotics has led to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria, which can reduce or even eliminate the effectiveness of antibiotics over time. This study underscores that public health efforts to increase the awareness of excessive antibiotic use and the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria appear to be achieving measurable results.

As part of its efforts at the local level to reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotic prescriptions, BCBSRI is participating in Rhode Island’s Antimicrobial Stewardship and Environmental Cleaning Task Force, which works to promote and facilitate the prudent use of antibiotics and prevention of antimicrobial-resistant infections. Antimicrobial stewardship promotes the "three Ds", the right drug, the right dose and the right duration.

Through its collaboration with the task force, BCBSRI has worked to provide resources to healthcare facilities to create and implement antimicrobial stewardship programs and improve infection control practices throughout the state.

The BCBSA 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 study also finds that nationally:
·         Reserved antibiotic prescriptions filled spiked 30 percent. Though they are less frequently used, they are the only type of antibiotic that increased.
·         Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas have the highest antibiotic prescription fill rates. Fill rates in these three states are nearly three times greater than those in the lowest states of Hawaii, Oregon and Montana. Portions of Appalachia and the South have the highest fill rates.
·         The antibiotic prescription fill rate in rural areas was 16 percent higher than in urban areas.
·         In more than 20 percent of all treatment cases, physicians continue to prescribe antibiotics where their use is not indicated to treat the condition. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were prescribed in 75 percent of these cases, compared to 58 percent when antibiotics were indicated as a treatment. 

This is the fifteenth study of the Blue Cross Blue Shield: The Health of America Report® series, a collaboration between BCBSA and Blue Health Intelligence, which uses a market-leading claims database to uncover key trends and insights into health care affordability and access to care. Analysis was performed by and also includes medical claims data from HealthCore, a wholly owned and independently operated subsidiary of Anthem, Inc. For more information, visit


Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island ( is a non-profit, community-focused health plan founded in 1939 to help Rhode Islanders finance their healthcare needs. Today, that’s still a big part of what we’re all about. We are committed to improving the health and peace of mind of our more than 400,000 members by facilitating their access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. Our goal is to improve the quality of life of our customers and of the people of Rhode Island by improving their health for generations to come. We are an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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