Gender differences in antibiotic prescribing in the community: a systematic review and meta-analysis

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2016 Jul;71(7):1800-6. doi: 10.1093/jac/dkw054. Epub 2016 Apr 3.


Objectives: Determinants of inappropriate antibiotic prescription in the community are not clearly defined. The objective of this study was to perform a systematic review and meta-analysis evaluating gender differences in antibiotic prescribing in primary care.

Methods: All studies analysing antibiotic prescription in primary care were eligible. PubMed and MEDLINE entries with publication dates from 1976 until December 2013 were searched. The primary outcomes were the incidence rate ratio (IRR) (measured as DDD/1000 inhabitants/day) and the prevalence rate ratio (PRR) (measured as prevalence rate/1000 inhabitants) of antimicrobial prescription, stratified by gender, age and antibiotic class. Random-effects estimates of the IRR and PRR and standard deviations were calculated.

Results: Overall, 576 articles were reviewed. Eleven studies, comprising a total of 44 333 839 individuals, were included. The studies used data from prospective national (five studies) or regional (six studies) surveillance of community pharmacy, insurance or national healthcare systems. Women were 27% (PRR 1.27 ± 0.12) more likely than men to receive an antibiotic prescription in their lifetimes. The amount of antibiotics prescribed to women was 36% (IRR 1.36 ± 0.11) higher than that prescribed for men in the 16 to 34 years age group and 40% (IRR 1.40 ± 0.03) greater in the 35 to 54 years age group. In particular, the amounts of cephalosporins and macrolides prescribed to women were 44% (IRR 1.44 ± 0.30) and 32% (IRR 1.32 ± 0.15) higher, respectively, than those prescribed for men.

Conclusions: This meta-analysis shows that women in the 16 to 54 years age group receive a significantly higher number of prescriptions of cephalosporins and macrolides in primary care than men do. Prospective studies are needed to address reasons for gender inequality in prescription and to determine whether a difference in adverse events, including resistance development, also occurs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Prescriptions*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Young Adult


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents