BACKGROUND. Respiratory tract infections (RTIs) comprise the most common indication for consulting a general practitioner and obtaining an antibiotic prescription.
Objective: To study changes in the number of visits, diagnoses, and antibiotic prescriptions for RTI in primary healthcare during the period 1999-2005.
Design: A retrospective, descriptive, population-based study of electronic patient records. Setting. County of Kalmar in southeastern Sweden.
Patients: Patients visiting primary healthcare units in Kalmar County for an RTI between 1 July 1999 and 31 December 2005.
Main outcome measures: RTI diagnoses, antibiotic prescriptions, age groups.
Results: A total of 240 447 visits for RTI made between 1999 and 2005 were analysed. The yearly consultation rates for the diagnoses acute tonsillitis and AOM decreased by 12% and 10%, respectively (p = 0.001). Of all patients consulting for an RTI diagnosis, 45% received antibiotics. Of all prescribed antibiotics, 60% were for phenoxymethylpenicillin (PcV) and 18% doxycycline. Amoxicillin or amoxicillin + clavulanic acid was prescribed to a lesser extent. The proportion of patients obtaining an antibiotic prescription was almost constant over time (44-46%). The prescriptions of doxycycline showed increasing values (NS). The prescriptions of remaining antibiotics decreased significantly especially for patients up to middle age.
Conclusion: This large population study, comprising more than six years of observations, showed the number of primary healthcare patients receiving an RTI diagnosis decreased during the period 1999-2005, but the proportion of patients receiving an antibiotic prescription remained the same. The large seasonal variations indicate a need for further interventions to decrease antibiotic use for RTIs.