Overutilisation of antibiotics may contribute to the emergence of antimicrobial drug resistance, a growing international concern. This study aimed to analyse the performance of UK general practices with respect to antibiotic prescribing for respiratory tract infections (RTIs) among young and middle-aged adults.
Data are reported for 568 UK general practices contributing to the Clinical Practice Research Datalink.
Participants were adults aged 18–59 years. Consultations were identified for acute upper RTIs including colds, cough, otitis-media, rhino-sinusitis and sore throat.
Primary and secondary outcome measures
For each consultation, we identified whether an antibiotic was prescribed. The proportion of RTI consultations with antibiotics prescribed was estimated.
There were 568 general practices analysed. The median general practice prescribed antibiotics at 54% of RTI consultations. At the highest prescribing 10% of practices, antibiotics were prescribed at 69% of RTI consultations. At the lowest prescribing 10% of practices, antibiotics were prescribed at 39% RTI consultations. The median practice prescribed antibiotics at 38% of consultations for ‘colds and upper RTIs’, 48% for ‘cough and bronchitis’, 60% for ‘sore throat’, 60% for ‘otitis-media’ and 91% for ‘rhino-sinusitis’. The highest prescribing 10% of practices issued antibiotic prescriptions at 72% of consultations for ‘colds’, 67% for ‘cough’, 78% for ‘sore throat’, 90% for ‘otitis-media’ and 100% for ‘rhino-sinusitis’.
Most UK general practices prescribe antibiotics to young and middle-aged adults with respiratory infections at rates that are considerably in excess of what is clinically justified. This will fuel antibiotic resistance.