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Br J Gen Pract. 2009 October 1; 59(567): e321–e328.
PMCID: PMC2751936

Reduced antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections in adults and children

Sharon B Meropol, MD, MSCE, Research Fellow in Clinical Epidemiology
Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Penn Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics, and Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, US
Zhen Chen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Biostatistics
Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, US
Joshua P Metlay, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology

Abstract

Background

Recent public health efforts, including in the UK and US, have targeted decreasing unnecessary antibiotic use. In the US, prescribing for acute non-specific respiratory infections (ARIs) has decreased, but broad-spectrum antibacterial prescribing has soared.

Aim

To assess recent trends in antibacterial prescribing for ARIs in the UK.

Design of study

Retrospective cohort.

Setting

The Health Improvement Network database.

Method

Outpatient ARI visits from 1 January 1990 to 31 December 2004 were selected. Outcomes were antibacterial and broad-spectrum antibacterial prescriptions per thousand person-years, and the probability of receiving an antibacterial and broad-spectrum prescription conditional on an ARI visit.

Results

From 1990 to 2004, antibacterial prescribing rates for ARIs decreased from 55.0 to 30.3 prescriptions/1000 person-years for adults and from 124.8 to 46.3 prescriptions/1000 person-years for children (P = 0.001). The probability of receiving an antibacterial prescription after an ARI visit decreased from 70.8% to 59.5% for adults and from 46.1% to 30.8% for children (P = 0.003 and 0.007, respectively). Antibacterial prescribing declined faster for younger than for older adults. Broad-spectrum antibacterial prescribing rates decreased from 3.8 to 2.9 prescriptions/1000 person-years for adults and from 5.2 to 2.2 prescriptions/1000 person years for children (P = 0.005 and 0.003, respectively). The probability of broad-spectrum prescribing did not demonstrate a significant linear trend for adults (P = 0.16), and decreased for children (P = 0.01).

Conclusion

UK antibacterial prescribing for ARIs has declined, similar to US trends, but there was no concomitant increase in low broad-spectrum prescribing. The success of UK strategies for limiting antimicrobial use has implications for programmes in other countries.

Keywords: anti-infective agents, databases, health services research, prescriptions, respiratory tract infections

Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners