Long term and repeat antibiotic prescribing during the COVID-19 pandemic
Insights from Large-Scale Analysis of Long Term and Repeat Antibiotic Prescribing Pre and during the COVID-19 Pandemic Periods
How to cite: Orlek, A.; Harvey, E.; Fisher, L.; Mehrkar, A.; Bacon, S.; Goldacre, B.; MacKenna, B.; Ashiru-Oredope, D. Insights from Large-Scale Analysis of Long Term and Repeat Antibiotic Prescribing Pre and during the COVID-19 Pandemic Periods. Preprints 2023, 2023030032. https://doi.org/10.20944/preprints202303.0032.v1.
COVID-19 pandemic-related pressures on primary care may have driven inappropriate continuation of antibiotic prescriptions. Yet prescribing modality (repeat/non-repeat) has not previously been investigated in a pandemic context. Using the OpenSAFELY-TPP analytics platform, we analysed repeat/non-repeat prescribing frequency in monthly patient cohorts between Jan 2020–2022. In-depth analysis was conducted on Jan 2020 (“pre-pandemic”) and Jan 2021 (“pandemic”) cohorts. Per-patient prescribing and clinical conditions were determined by searching primary care record data using clinical code lists. Repeat prescribing was defined as >=3 prescriptions in a 6 month lookback period. Associations between demographics (e.g. age, sex, geography) and repeat/non-repeat prescribing were explored using unadjusted risk ratios. Antibiotic prescribing declined from May 2020; non-repeat prescribing declined more strongly than repeat prescribing (maximum declines -26% vs -11%, respectively). In the pandemic cohort, older patients were at higher risk of prescribing (especially repeat prescribing). The most common clinical conditions for repeat prescribing were COPD comorbidity and urinary tract infection. Comorbidities were more common among repeat vs non-repeat prescribed patients. In the pandemic cohort, vs pre-pandemic, repeat and non-repeat prescribing for comorbidities generally declined less compared with shorter-term conditions (infections, including COPD exacerbation/lower respiratory tract infection). Our findings inform ongoing development of stewardship interventions in England.