OBJECTIVE: Determine the association of incident antibiotic prescribing levels for common infections with infection-related complications and hospitalisations by comparing high with low prescribing general practitioner practices.
DESIGN RETROSPECTIVE COHORT STUDY: Retrospective cohort study.
DATA SOURCE: UK primary care records from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD GOLD) and SAIL Databank (SAIL) linked with Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data, including 546 CPRD, 346 CPRD-HES and 338 SAIL-HES practices.
EXPOSURES: Initial general practice visit for one of six common infections and the proportion of antibiotic prescribing in each practice.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Incidence of infection-related complications (as recorded in general practice) or infection-related hospital admission within 30 days after consultation for a common infection.
RESULTS: A practice with 10.4% higher antibiotic prescribing (the IQR) was associated with a 5.7% lower rate of infection-related hospital admissions (adjusted analysis, 95% CI 3.3% to 8.0%). The association varied by infection with larger associations in hospital admissions with lower respiratory tract infection (16.1%; 95% CI 12.4% to 19.7%) and urinary tract infection (14.7%; 95% CI 7.6% to 21.1%) and smaller association in hospital admissions for upper respiratory tract infection (6.5%; 95% CI 3.5% to 9.5%) The association of antibiotic prescribing levels and hospital admission was largest in patients aged 18-39 years (8.6%; 95% CI 4.0% to 13.0%) and smallest in the elderly aged 75+ years (0.3%; 95% CI -3.4% to 3.9%).
CONCLUSIONS: There is an association between lower levels of practice level antibiotic prescribing and higher infection-related hospital admissions. Indiscriminately reducing antibiotic prescribing may lead to harm. Greater focus is needed to optimise antibiotic use by reducing inappropriate antibiotic prescribing and better targeting antibiotics to patients at high risk of infection-related complications.