Interventions to improve antibiotic prescribing practices for hospital inpatients

Up to 50% of antibiotic usage in hospitals is inappropriate. In hospitals infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are associated with higher mortality, morbidity and prolonged hospital stay compared with infections caused by antibiotic-susceptible bacteria. Clostridium difficile associated diarrhoea (CDAD) is a hospital acquired infection that is caused by antibiotic prescribing.


To estimate the effectiveness of professional interventions that alone, or in combination, are effective in promoting prudent antibiotic prescribing to hospital inpatients, to evaluate the impact of these interventions on reducing the incidence of antimicrobial resistant pathogens or CDAD and their impact on clinical outcome.


We searched the Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) specialized register, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE from 1980 to November 2003. Additional studies were obtained from the bibliographies of retrieved articles


We included all randomised and controlled clinical trials (RCT/CCT), controlled before and after studies (CBA) and interrupted time series (ITS) studies of antibiotic prescribing to hospital inpatients. Interventions included any professional or structural interventions as defined by EPOC.


Two reviewers extracted data and assessed quality.


Sixty six studies were included and 51 (77%) showed a significant improvement in at least one outcome. Six interventions only aimed to increase treatment, 57 interventions aimed to decrease treatment and three interventions aimed to both increase and decrease treatment. The intervention target was the decision to prescribe antibiotics (one study), timing of first dose (six studies), the regimen (drug, dosing interval etc, 61 studies) or the duration of treatment (10 studies); 12 studies had more than one target. Of the six interventions that aimed to increase treatment, five reported a significant improvement in drug outcomes and one a significant improvement in clinical outcome. Of the 60 interventions that aimed to decrease treatment 47 reported drug outcomes of which 38 (81%) significantly improved, 16 reported microbiological outcomes of which 12 (75%) significantly improved and nine reported clinical outcomes of which two (22%) significantly deteriorated and 3 (33%) significantly improved. Five studies aimed to reduce CDAD. Three showed a significant reduction in CDAD. Due to differences in study design and duration of follow up it was only possible to perform meta-regression on a few studies.


The results show that interventions to improve antibiotic prescribing to hospital inpatients are successful, and can reduce antimicrobial resistance or hospital acquired infections.


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Davey P
Brown E
Fenelon L
Finch R
Gould I
Hartman G
Holmes A
Ramsay C
Taylor E
Wilcox M
Wiffen P