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Peer pressure can “substantially reduce” antibiotic prescribing, study finds

19 February 2016

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A letter telling practices that their antibiotic prescription rates are high compared to nearby practices can reduce prescriptions by 3.3%, a study found.

The study involved more than 1,500 English practices with the highest antibiotic prescribing rates in the country. The chief medical officer of England sent them a letter noting their high prescription rates, which  led to lower prescriptions.

Highlighting this to the practices could save more than £92,000 over six months, researchers found. 

This comes after practices are being asked to reduce their antibiotic prescriptions, in order to reduce antimicrobial resistance, where bacteria adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic. This means antibiotics are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate. 

The trial, published in The Lancet, also looked at the effect of posters and leaflets aimed at patients, but this was deemed far less effective.

“To our knowledge, this study is the first national-scale randomised trial of giving feedback on antibiotic prescribing,” the report on the study read.

“Our results show that providing a low-cost mail-based intervention incorporating social norm feedback on high antibiotic use can consistently reduce such use over a 6-month period,” it added.

The research team highlighted the low cost of sending a letter – at just 6p per prescription saved – and said the approach could help with targets to reduce primary care prescribing.

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