HealthDay News — Following implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in Australia in April 2020, there was a reduction in antibiotic dispensing, according to a study published online Aug. 18 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Malcolm B. Gillies, Ph.D., from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and colleagues used national claims data to examine antibiotic dispensing trends from November 2015 to October 2020. Changes in monthly antibiotic dispensing were quantified using an interrupted time series analysis.

The researchers found that an estimated 19,921,370 people had 125,495,137 antibiotic dispensings during the study period, 71 percent of which were prescribed by general practitioners (GPs). A sustained 36 percent reduction in antibiotic dispensings was seen following COVID-19 restrictions from April 2020. Large reductions were seen for antibiotics recommended for managing respiratory tract infections (range, 51 to 69 percent), while no change was seen for those recommended for nonrespiratory infections. There was a reduction noted in dispensings prescribed by GPs from 63.5 per 1,000 population for April to October 2019 to 37.0 per 1,000 for April to October 2020. The total GP consultation rates remained stable, but 31 percent of consultations were telehealth from April 2020.


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“The ‘natural experiment’ arising from the public health responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique occasion to inform antimicrobial prescribing guidelines, highlighting the potential reduction in antibiotic prescribing by GPs and specialists for respiratory viral infections,” the authors write.

Several authors are employed by the Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, which received funding in 2020 from AbbVie Australia, unrelated to this study.

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