Antibiotic prescribing in Australian general practice: how has it changed from 1990-91 to 2002-03?

Respir Med. 2006 Nov;100(11):2004-11. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2006.02.015. Epub 2006 Apr 17.


There is increasing evidence that antibiotics have limited value for many respiratory illnesses. This study investigates changes in overall antibiotic prescribing rates, and rates for specific conditions, by Australian general practitioners (GPs) between 1990-91 and 2002-03. This is a comparative study of two cross-sectional surveys of general practice activity, the Australian Morbidity and Treatment Survey (AMTS) 1990-91 and Bettering Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) 2002-03. Both studies used random samples of GPs, each providing data about a cluster of patient encounters. Outcome measures are the antibiotic prescribing rate per 100 encounters or per 100 selected problems managed. Between 1990-91 and 2002-03, the overall antibiotic prescribing rate decreased 24.3% from 18.9 prescriptions per 100 encounters to 14.3 (P<0.001). For children, the decrease for acute upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) was from 39.0 per 100 URTI problems to 24.4 (P<0.001), while the antibiotic prescribing rate increased for acute otitis media, decreased for bronchitis/bronchiolitis, and remained unchanged for other respiratory problems analysed. For adults the antibiotic prescribing rate for URTI decreased from 58.2 per 100 URTI problems to 40.0 (P<0.001), increased significantly for sinusitis and remained unchanged for all other respiratory problems. Antibiotic prescribing decreased significantly between 1990-91 and 2002-03 but the decrease was selective. The decline has been more pronounced among children than adults, and particularly for URTI. While the message of educators may be achieving its goal for URTI, other approaches targeting specific respiratory problems may be required to reduce antibiotic prescribing in these areas.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Anti-Infective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Bronchiolitis / drug therapy
  • Bronchiolitis / epidemiology
  • Bronchitis / drug therapy
  • Bronchitis / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Practice* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy
  • Otitis Media / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / epidemiology
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology


  • Anti-Infective Agents