Safety of reduced antibiotic prescribing for self limiting respiratory tract infections in primary care: cohort study using electronic health records

Objective To determine whether the incidence of pneumonia, peritonsillar abscess, mastoiditis, empyema, meningitis, intracranial abscess, and Lemierre’s syndrome is higher in general practices that prescribe fewer antibiotics for self limiting respiratory tract infections (RTIs).

Design Cohort study.

Setting 610 UK general practices from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink.

Participants Registered patients with 45.5 million person years of follow-up from 2005 to 2014.

Exposures Standardised proportion of RTI consultations with antibiotics prescribed for each general practice, and rate of antibiotic prescriptions for RTIs per 1000 registered patients.

Main outcome measures Incidence of pneumonia, peritonsillar abscess, mastoiditis, empyema, meningitis, intracranial abscess, and Lemierre’s syndrome, adjusting for age group, sex, region, deprivation fifth, RTI consultation rate, and general practice.

Results From 2005 to 2014 the proportion of RTI consultations with antibiotics prescribed decreased from 53.9% to 50.5% in men and from 54.5% to 51.5% in women. From 2005 to 2014, new episodes of meningitis, mastoiditis, and peritonsillar abscess decreased annually by 5.3%, 4.6%, and 1.0%, respectively, whereas new episodes of pneumonia increased by 0.4%. Age and sex standardised incidences for pneumonia and peritonsillar abscess were higher for practices in the lowest fourth of antibiotic prescribing compared with the highest fourth. The adjusted relative risk increases for a 10% reduction in antibiotic prescribing were 12.8% (95% confidence interval 7.8% to 17.5%, P<0.001) for pneumonia and 9.9% (5.6% to 14.0%, P<0.001) for peritonsillar abscess. If a general practice with an average list size of 7000 patients reduces the proportion of RTI consultations with antibiotics prescribed by 10%, then it might observe 1.1 (95% confidence interval 0.6 to 1.5) more cases of pneumonia each year and 0.9 (0.5 to 1.3) more cases of peritonsillar abscess each decade. Mastoiditis, empyema, meningitis, intracranial abscess, and Lemierre’s syndrome were similar in frequency at low prescribing and high prescribing practices.

Conclusions General practices that adopt a policy to reduce antibiotic prescribing for RTIs might expect a slight increase in the incidence of treatable pneumonia and peritonsillar abscess. No increase is likely in mastoiditis, empyema, bacterial meningitis, intracranial abscess, or Lemierre’s syndrome. Even a substantial reduction in antibiotic prescribing was predicted to be associated with only a small increase in numbers of cases observed overall, but caution might be required in subgroups at higher risk of pneumonia.

BMJ 2016;354:i3410

Provision of social norm feedback to high prescribers of antibiotics in general practice: a pragmatic national randomised controlled trial

Background

Unnecessary antibiotic prescribing contributes to antimicrobial resistance. In this trial, we aimed to reduce unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics by general practitioners (GPs) in England.

Methods

In this randomised, 2 × 2 factorial trial, publicly available databases were used to identify GP practices whose prescribing rate for antibiotics was in the top 20% for their National Health Service (NHS) Local Area Team. Eligible practices were randomly assigned (1:1) into two groups by computer-generated allocation sequence, stratified by NHS Local Area Team. Participants, but not investigators, were blinded to group assignment. On Sept 29, 2014, every GP in the feedback intervention group was sent a letter from England’s Chief Medical Officer and a leaflet on antibiotics for use with patients. The letter stated that the practice was prescribing antibiotics at a higher rate than 80% of practices in its NHS Local Area Team. GPs in the control group received no communication. The sample was re-randomised into two groups, and in December, 2014, GP practices were either sent patient-focused information that promoted reduced use of antibiotics or received no communication. The primary outcome measure was the rate of antibiotic items dispensed per 1000 weighted population, controlling for past prescribing. Analysis was by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the ISRCTN registry, number ISRCTN32349954, and has been completed.

Findings

Between Sept 8 and Sept 26, 2014, we recruited and assigned 1581 GP practices to feedback intervention (n=791) or control (n=790) groups. Letters were sent to 3227 GPs in the intervention group. Between October, 2014, and March, 2015, the rate of antibiotic items dispensed per 1000 population was 126·98 (95% CI 125·68–128·27) in the feedback intervention group and 131·25 (130·33–132·16) in the control group, a difference of 4·27 (3·3%; incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0·967 [95% CI 0·957–0·977]; p<0·0001), representing an estimated 73 406 fewer antibiotic items dispensed. In December, 2014, GP practices were re-assigned to patient-focused intervention (n=777) or control (n=804) groups. The patient-focused intervention did not significantly affect the primary outcome measure between December, 2014, and March, 2015 (antibiotic items dispensed per 1000 population: 135·00 [95% CI 133·77–136·22] in the patient-focused intervention group and 133·98 [133·06–134·90] in the control group; IRR for difference between groups 1·01, 95% CI 1·00–1·02; p=0·105).

Interpretation

Social norm feedback from a high-profile messenger can substantially reduce antibiotic prescribing at low cost and at national scale; this outcome makes it a worthwhile addition to antimicrobial stewardship programmes.

Funding

Public Health England.

Lancet,Volume 387, No. 10029, p1743–1752, 23 April 2016 

Antibiotic Exposure During the First 6 Months of Life and Weight Gain During Childhood

Importance  Early-life antibiotic exposure has been associated with increased adiposity in animal models, mediated through the gut microbiome. Infant antibiotic exposure is common and often inappropriate. Studies of the association between infant antibiotics and childhood weight gain have reported inconsistent results.

Objective  To assess the association between early-life antibiotic exposure and childhood weight gain.

Design and Setting  Retrospective, longitudinal study of singleton births and matched longitudinal study of twin pairs conducted in a network of 30 pediatric primary care practices serving more than 200 000 children of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Participants  Children born between November 1, 2001, and December 31, 2011, at 35 weeks’ gestational age or older, with birth weight of 2000 g or more and in the fifth percentile or higher for gestational age, and who had a preventive health visit within 14 days of life and at least 2 additional visits in the first year of life. Children with complex chronic conditions and those who received long-term antibiotics or multiple systemic corticosteroid prescriptions were excluded. We included 38 522 singleton children and 92 twins (46 matched pairs) discordant in antibiotic exposure. Final date of follow-up was December 31, 2012.

Exposure  Systemic antibiotic use in the first 6 months of life.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Weight, measured at preventive health visits from age 6 months through 7 years.

Results  Of 38 522 singleton children (50% female; mean birth weight, 3.4 kg), 5287 (14%) were exposed to antibiotics during the first 6 months of life (at a mean age of 4.3 months). Antibiotic exposure was not significantly associated with rate of weight change (0.7%; 95% CI, −0.1% to 1.5%;P = .07, equivalent to approximately 0.05 kg; 95% CI, −0.004 to 0.11 kg of added weight gain between age 2 years and 5 years). Among 92 twins (38% female; mean birth weight, 2.8 kg), the 46 twins who were exposed to antibiotics during the first 6 months of life received them at a mean age of 4.5 months. Antibiotic exposure was not significantly associated with a weight difference (−0.09 kg; 95% CI, −0.26 to 0.08 kg; P = .30).

Conclusions and Relevance  Exposure to antibiotics within the first 6 months of life compared with no exposure was not associated with a statistically significant difference in weight gain through age 7 years. There are many reasons to limit antibiotic exposure in young, healthy children, but weight gain is likely not one of them.

By Jeffrey S Geber et al, JAMA. 2016;315(12):1258-1265

Effect of Behavioral Interventions on Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing Among Primary Care Practices

Importance  Interventions based on behavioral science might reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.

Objective  To assess effects of behavioral interventions and rates of inappropriate (not guideline-concordant) antibiotic prescribing during ambulatory visits for acute respiratory tract infections.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Cluster randomized clinical trial conducted among 47 primary care practices in Boston and Los Angeles. Participants were 248 enrolled clinicians randomized to receive 0, 1, 2, or 3 interventions for 18 months. All clinicians received education on antibiotic prescribing guidelines on enrollment. Interventions began between November 1, 2011, and October 1, 2012. Follow-up for the latest-starting sites ended on April 1, 2014. Adult patients with comorbidities and concomitant infections were excluded.

Interventions  Three behavioral interventions, implemented alone or in combination: suggested alternatives presented electronic order sets suggesting nonantibiotic treatments; accountable justificationprompted clinicians to enter free-text justifications for prescribing antibiotics into patients’ electronic health records; peer comparison sent emails to clinicians that compared their antibiotic prescribing rates with those of “top performers” (those with the lowest inappropriate prescribing rates).

Main Outcomes and Measures  Antibiotic prescribing rates for visits with antibiotic-inappropriate diagnoses (nonspecific upper respiratory tract infections, acute bronchitis, and influenza) from 18 months preintervention to 18 months afterward, adjusting each intervention’s effects for co-occurring interventions and preintervention trends, with random effects for practices and clinicians.

Results  There were 14 753 visits (mean patient age, 47 years; 69% women) for antibiotic-inappropriate acute respiratory tract infections during the baseline period and 16 959 visits (mean patient age, 48 years; 67% women) during the intervention period. Mean antibiotic prescribing rates decreased from 24.1% at intervention start to 13.1% at intervention month 18 (absolute difference, −11.0%) for control practices; from 22.1% to 6.1% (absolute difference, −16.0%) for suggested alternatives (difference in differences, −5.0% [95% CI, −7.8% to 0.1%]; P = .66 for differences in trajectories); from 23.2% to 5.2% (absolute difference, −18.1%) for accountable justification (difference in differences, −7.0% [95% CI, −9.1% to −2.9%]; P < .001); and from 19.9% to 3.7% (absolute difference, −16.3%) for peer comparison (difference in differences, −5.2% [95% CI, −6.9% to −1.6%]; P < .001). There were no statistically significant interactions (neither synergy nor interference) between interventions.

Conclusions and Relevance  Among primary care practices, the use of accountable justification and peer comparison as behavioral interventions resulted in lower rates of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory tract infections.

Trial Registration  clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT01454947

By Daniella Meeker, et al, JAMA. 2016;315(6):562-570. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.0275