More access to information reduces unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions: Study

Washington: A new study now finds that providing more information about how doctors prescribe drugs could reduce problems associated with overprescription.

The study was published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

According to the study, in 2016, the National Health Service described the resistance to antibiotics as “one of the most significant threats to patients’ safety worldwide.”

While antibiotics are often the go-to prescription for many primary care cases, researchers estimate that as much as 23 per cent of these prescriptions could be inappropriate and higher antibiotic consumption can lead to drugs becoming ineffective at combating infections.

In 2013, the Chief Medical Officer for England presented a 5-year plan to combat antibiotic consumption. One part of this plan is a publicly funded service creating a website that provides doctors with prescribing data by practice and by month.

Researchers have now set out to determine if there was a measurable impact from the antimicrobial resistance strategy on overall antibiotic prescribing in England.

The study saw researchers calculating the volume of antibiotic prescriptions and monthly prescribing data over several years, following which they saw that there was a downward change after 2013. There was a decrease of 14 per cent in the number of antibiotic prescriptions between 2012 and 2017. This was against a background of increasing population size.

While researchers cannot firmly attribute causality for the reduction in prescribing to the strategy, they believe that the magnitude and timing of the changes are noteworthy. The substantial change followed a long period of relatively static antibiotic prescribing.

Speaking about it, one of the researchers, Ben Goldcare said, “We are delighted to report a substantial shift in practice, starting in 2013, with 9.7 million fewer prescriptions in the past year than would have been expected at pre-2013 trends”.