Background & objectives: Irrational use of antimicrobials is a key factor behind rapidly spreading antimicrobial resistance in microorganisms. This study was undertaken to determine the rate and pattern of antimicrobial prescribing in patients with uncomplicated acute respiratory infections, fever and diarrhoea attending a few rural and urban health settings.
Methods: The study was done in primary and secondary health care facilities of public/government and private settings at four sites in India. Patients with fever, cough, diarrhoea or ear, nose or throat infections of < 7 days were included. Pregnant women, lactating mothers, infants, seriously ill patients and patients with bloody diarrhoea or purulent nasal or ear discharge were excluded.
Results: Overall antimicrobial prescription rate was 69.4 per cent (95% CI 67.1, 71.7). Wide variation was observed (Thiruvananthapuram 47.6%, Lucknow 81.8%, Chennai 73.1% and Vellore 76.5%). Physicians practicing in rural and public/government settings prescribed antimicrobials more frequently than those in urban and private settings (83.8, 81.9, 68.3 and 68.2% respectively). Antimicrobials were more frequently prescribed for patients presenting with fever. Highest rate was noticed for children aged between 6 and 18 yr. Patients of the high-income group received antimicrobials more frequently (72.7%). In both public/ government and private settings, for patients who purchased medicines, the rate was higher (82.4 and 68.9% respectively), vs. those receiving free medicines (70.2 and 46.2% respectively). Two third of all antimicrobials prescribed were penicillins and co-trimoxazole, and > 40 per cent of prescriptions from private sector were quinolones and cephalosporins.
Interpretation & conclusions: Our findings showed that prescription of antimicrobials for acute respiratory infections and diarrhoea was extremely common and warrants interventional strategies.