Infection-related complications after common infection in association with new antibiotic prescribing in primary care: Retrospective cohort study using linked electronic health records

Birgitta Van Bodegraven*, Victoria Palin, Chirag Mistry, Matthew Sperrin, Andrew White, William Welfare, Darren M. Ashcroft, Tjeerd Pieter Van Staa

*Corresponding author for this work

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    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number040675
    JournalBMJ Open
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Funding This work was supported by Connected Health Cities, which is a Northern Health Science Alliance led programme funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and delivered by a consortium of academic and National Health Service (NHS) organisations across the north of England. This study is partly based on data from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink obtained under licence from the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) data are subject to Crown copyright (2018) protection, reused with the permission of The Health, & Social Care Information Centre, all rights reserved. The data are provided by patients and collected by the NHS as part of their care and support. This study also used anonymised data held in the Secure Anonymised Information Linkage (SAIL) System, which is part of the national e-health records infrastructure for Wales.

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    • adverse events
    • epidemiology
    • health informatics
    • health policy
    • infectious diseases
    • quality in health care


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