Abstract

Background

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the healthcare systems, adding extra pressure to reduce antimicrobial resistance. Therefore, we aimed to evaluate changes in antibiotic prescription patterns after COVID-19 started.

Methods

With the approval of NHS England, we used the OpenSAFELY platform to access the TPP SystmOne electronic health record (EHR) system in primary care and selected patients prescribed antibiotics from 2019 to 2021. To evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing, we evaluated prescribing rates and its predictors and used interrupted time series analysis by fitting binomial logistic regression models.

Findings

Over 32 million antibiotic prescriptions were extracted over the study period; 8.7% were broad-spectrum. The study showed increases in broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing (odds ratio [OR] 1.37; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.36–1.38) as an immediate impact of the pandemic, followed by a gradual recovery with a 1.1–1.2% decrease in odds of broad-spectrum prescription per month. The same pattern was found within subgroups defined by age, sex, region, ethnicity, and socioeconomic deprivation quintiles. More deprived patients were more likely to receive broad-spectrum antibiotics, which differences remained stable over time. The most significant increase in broad-spectrum prescribing was observed for lower respiratory tract infection (OR 2.33; 95% CI 2.1–2.50) and otitis media (OR 1.96; 95% CI 1.80–2.13).

Interpretation

An immediate reduction in antibiotic prescribing and an increase in the proportion of broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing in primary care was observed. The trends recovered to pre-pandemic levels, but the consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic on AMR needs further investigation.