BMJ Open have published a systematic review looking at the effectiveness of patient information leaflets in reducing the prescribing of antibiotics and reconsultation rates in general practice for common infections.
The introduction to the study highlights that the overuse of antibiotics contributes to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance and is widely recognised as a major public health problem.
Eighty per cent of all antibiotics are prescribed in general practice. Most of these antibiotics are used for acute cough and respiratory tract infections, even though most of these infections are self-limiting and there is little benefit from treatment with antibiotics.
Previous studies have showed that antibiotic prescription is strongly influenced by patients’ expectations and that general practitioners (GPs) experience pressure from patients to prescribe antibiotics. The prescription of antibiotics is associated with increased reconsultation rates and therefore, also increases GPs’ workloads.
The review focuses on the role patient information leaflets can play during GP consultations to increase patients’ knowledge, decrease unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics and decrease reconsultations for similar illnesses.
The researchers identified eight eligible studies that evaluated the impact information leaflets on common infections in general practice. Five studies investigated effects of leaflets during consultations for respiratory tract infections; one concerned conjunctivitis, one urinary tract infections and one gastroenteritis and tonsillitis.
Three of four studies presented data on antibiotic use and showed significant reductions of prescriptions in leaflet groups.
Effects on reconsultation varied widely. One large study showed lower reconsultation rates, two studies showed no effect, and one study showed increased reconsultation rates.
The study concludes that the use of patient information leaflets may be a promising tool to reduce antibiotic use.
The full study can be read here.
Patient information leaflets to reduce antibiotic use and reconsultation rates in general practice: a systematic review
Eefje G P M de Bont, Marleen Alink, Famke C J Falkenberg, Geert-Jan Dinant,Jochen W L Cals
BMJ Open 2015;5:e007612 doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2015-007612