Antibiotic prescribing in general practice during COVID-19
The decrease in absolute number of antibiotic prescriptions reflects the trend of falling antibiotic consumption in general practice since 2014 and the aim to reduce overprescribing. However, the unexpectedly high rate of prescribing during COVID-19 might reflect additional instances of inappropriate antibiotic use in telephone consultations.
These data support evidence that antibiotic prescribing rates are higher in remote consultations than during in-person appointments. This increase could reflect the greater diagnostic uncertainty that results from an inability to examine patients and perform investigations during telephone appointments, which might lead clinicians to take greater precautions in cases of possible infection.
The data also reflect growing concerns that COVID-19 might be contributing to antimicrobial resistance. With evidence that 70% of patients with COVID-19 receive antibiotics when not clinically indicated, focus has centred on antibiotic misuse in the clinical management of COVID-19, but not on the additional risks posed by remote prescribing.
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