Community antibiotic prescribing in patients with COVID-19 across three pandemic waves: a population-based study in Scotland, UK

Laura Ciaccio (Lead / Corresponding author), Peter T. Donnan, Benjamin J. Parcell, Charis A. Marwick

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Objectives: This study aims to examine community antibiotic prescribing across a complete geographical area for people with a positive COVID-19 test across three pandemic waves, and to examine health and demographic factors associated with antibiotic prescribing.

Design: A population-based study using administrative data.

Setting: A complete geographical region within Scotland, UK.

Participants: Residents of two National Health Service Scotland health boards with SARS-CoV-2 virus test results from 1 February 2020 to 31 March 2022 (n=184 954). Individuals with a positive test result (n=16 025) had data linked to prescription and hospital admission data ±28 days of the test, general practice data for high-risk comorbidities and demographic data.

Outcome measures: The associations between patient factors and the odds of antibiotic prescription in COVID-19 episodes across three pandemic waves from multivariate binary logistic regression.

Results: Data included 768 206 tests for 184 954 individuals, identifying 16 240 COVID-19 episodes involving 16 025 individuals. There were 3263 antibiotic prescriptions ±28 days for 2395 episodes. 35.6% of episodes had a prescription only before the test date, 52.3% of episodes after and 12.1% before and after. Antibiotic prescribing reduced over time: 20.4% of episodes in wave 1, 17.7% in wave 2 and 12.0% in wave 3. In multivariate logistic regression, being female (OR 1.31, 95% CI 1.19 to 1.45), older (OR 3.02, 95% CI 2.50 to 3.68 75+ vs <25 years), having a high-risk comorbidity (OR 1.45, 95% CI 1.31 to 1.61), a hospital admission ±28 days of an episode (OR 1.58, 95% CI 1.42 to 1.77) and health board region (OR 1.14, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.25, board B vs A) increased the odds of receiving an antibiotic.

Conclusion: Community antibiotic prescriptions in COVID-19 episodes were uncommon in this population and likelihood was associated with patient factors. The reduction over pandemic waves may represent increased knowledge regarding COVID-19 treatment and/or evolving symptomatology.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere081930
Number of pages8
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


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