Letters to GPs brings about modest reduction in antibiotic prescribing

WRITING letters to GPs about their antibiotic prescribing rates can bring about a small reduction in scripts handed out, according to a study published in the Lancet.

In the trial of 15,000 practices, GPs were sent a letter saying "80% of practices in your local area prescribe fewer antibiotics per head than yours". The letter was supplemented with guidance on ensuring antibiotics prescriptions were necessary.

GPs who received the letter reduced their rate of antibiotic prescriptions to 127 per 1,000 compared to 131 per 1,000 by GPs who did not receive the letter. This amounted to 73,000 fewer prescriptions (a 3.3 per cent reduction) over 6 months.

The trial also involved a cohort of patients targeted with leaflets and posters about why reducing the use of antibiotics is important but there was no significant difference in the rate of antibiotic prescriptions in this group.

The trial was a collaboration between Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, Public Health England, and the Behavioural Insights Team.

Professor Dame Sally Davies said: "We know that drug resistant infections are one of the biggest health threats we face. This innovative trial has shown effective and low cost ways to reduce unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics which is essential if we are to preserve these precious medicines and help to save modern medicine as we know it."

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