Background: Numerous studies suggest overprescribing of antibiotics for respiratory tract indications (RTIs), without really authenticating inappropriate prescription; the strict criteria of guideline recommendations were not taken into account as information on specific diagnoses, patient characteristics and disease severity was not available.
Objective: The aim of this study is to quantify and qualify inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for RTIs.
Methods: This is an observational study of the (antibiotic) management of patients with RTIs, using a detailed registration of RTI consultations by general practitioners (GPs). Consultations of which all necessary information was available were benchmarked to the prescribing guidelines for acute otitis media (AOM), acute sore throat, rhinosinusitis or acute cough. Levels of overprescribing for these indications and factors associated with overprescribing were determined.
Results: The overall antibiotic prescribing rate was 38%. Of these prescriptions, 46% were not indicated by the guidelines. Relative overprescribing was highest for throat (including tonsillitis) and lowest for ear consultations (including AOM). Absolute overprescribing was highest for lower RTIs (including bronchitis). Overprescribing was highest for patients between 18 and 65 years of age, when GPs felt patients' pressure for an antibiotic treatment, for patients presenting with fever and with complaints longer than 1 week. Underprescribing was observed in <4% of the consultations without a prescription.
Conclusion: Awareness of indications and patient groups provoking antibiotic overprescribing can help in the development of targeted strategies to improve GPs' prescribing routines for RTIs.
Keywords: Antibacterial agents; guideline; overprescription; primary health care; respiratory system; respiratory tract infection..
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