Aims: This was a pilot study of the use of a clinical pharmacist as a therapeutics adviser (academic detailer) to modify antibiotic prescribing by general practitioners.
Methods: Following a visit by the adviser (March-May), 112 general practitioners were recruited and randomised to control or active groups. A panel of experts prepared a best practice chart of recommended drugs for upper and lower respiratory tract infections, otitis media and urinary tract infections. The adviser made a 10-15 min visit to each prescriber in the active group (June-July), gave them the chart and discussed its recommendations briefly. Doctors in the control group were not visited nor given the chart. Prescription numbers for all prescribers were obtained from the Commonwealth Health Insurance Commission for the pre(March-May) and postdetailing (August-September) periods using a three month lag time for data collection. Data for total numbers of prescriptions and for selected individual antibiotics used in these two periods were analysed using nonparametric statistics.
Results: Prescribing patterns were similar for the control and active groups in the predetailing period. For both groups, there were significant (P<0.03) increases (45% for control and 40% for active) in total number of antibiotic prescriptions in the post compared with the predetailing period. This trend was anticipated on the basis of the winter seasonal increase in respiratory infections. In line with the chart recommendations for first-line treatment, doctors in the active group prescribed significantly more amoxycillin (P<0.02) and doxycycline (P<0.001) in the post vs predetailing periods. By contrast, doctors in the control group prescribed significantly more cefaclor (P<0.03) and roxithromycin (P<0.03), drugs that were not recommended. The total cost of antibiotics prescribed by doctors in the control group increased by 48% ($37 150) from the preto postdetailing periods. In the same time period, the costs for the active group increased by only 35% ($21 020).
Conclusions: We conclude that the academic detailing process was successful in modifying prescribing patterns and that it also decreased prescription numbers and costs. Application of the scheme on a nationwide basis could not only improve prescriber choice of the most appropriate antibiotic but also result in a significant saving of health care dollars.