Appropriateness of antibiotic prescribing for upper respiratory tract infections in general practice: Comparison between Denmark and Iceland

Scand J Prim Health Care. 2015;33(4):269-74. doi: 10.3109/02813432.2015.1114349.


Objective: To compare the appropriateness of antibiotic prescribing for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in two countries with different prevalence of antimicrobial resistance: Denmark and Iceland.

Design: A cross-sectional study.

Settings and subjects: General practitioners (GPs) in Denmark (n = 78) and Iceland (n = 21) registered all patients with URTI according to the Audit Project Odense (APO) method during a three-week period in the winter months of 2008 and 2009.

Main outcome measures: Appropriateness of antibiotic prescribing in patients with URTI in Denmark and Iceland.

Results: A total of 1428 patients were registered (Denmark: n = 1208; Iceland: n = 220). A majority of patients in both countries were prescribed antibiotics, and only a minority of the prescriptions could be classified as appropriate prescribing. In general, Icelandic GPs more often prescribed antibiotics (Iceland = 75.8% vs. Denmark = 59.3%), but Danish GPs had a higher percentage of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for sinusitis, and Icelandic GPs for pharyngotonsillitis. No differences were found for acute otitis media (AOM). The different antibiotic prescribing patterns between Denmark and Iceland could not fully be explained by different symptoms and signs among patients.

Conclusion: Icelandic GPs have a higher antibiotic prescribing rate compared with Danish GPs, but the percentage of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing is highest in Denmark for sinusitis, and in Iceland for pharyngotonsillitis. Key points Within the Nordic countries there are marked differences in antimicrobial resistance and antibiotic use. Iceland differs from Denmark by a higher antibiotic prescribing rate and a higher prevalence of antimicrobial resistance. The majority of antibiotics are prescribed in primary care and most often for upper respiratory infections (URTIs). Only a minor amount of antibiotic prescriptions for URTIs can be classified as appropriate; inappropriate antibiotic prescribing is higher in Denmark than in Iceland for sinusitis and the opposite for pharyngotonsillitis. The different antibiotic prescribing patterns between Denmark and Iceland cannot be fully explained by different clinical criteria among patients.

Keywords: Antibiotics; Denmark; diagnostic criteria; general practice; upper respiratory tract infection.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy*
  • Bacterial Infections / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Clinical Audit
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Family Practice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iceland / epidemiology
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / drug therapy*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents