Delayed antibiotic prescribing and associated antibiotic consumption in adults with acute cough

Nick A. Francis*, David Gillespie, Jacqueline Nuttall, Kerenza Hood, Paul Little, Theo Verheij, Herman Goossens, Samuel Coenen, Christopher C. Butler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Delayed antibiotic prescribing is promoted as a strategy to reduce antibiotic consumption, but its use and its effect on antibiotic consumption in routine care is poorly described. Aim: To quantify delayed antibiotic prescribing in adults presenting in primary care with acute cough/lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI), duration of advised delay, consumption of delayed antibiotics, and factors associated with consumption. Design and setting: Prospective observational cohort in general practices in 14 primary care networks in 13 European countries. Method: GPs recorded clinical features and antibiotic prescribing for adults presenting with an acute infective illness with cough as the dominant symptom. Patients recorded their consumption of antibiotics from any source during the 28-day follow up. Results: Two hundred and ten (6.3%) of 3368 patients with usable consultation data were prescribed delayed antibiotics. The median recommended delay period was 3 days. Seventy-five (44.4%) of the 169 with consumption data consumed the antibiotic course and a further 18 (10.7%) took another antibiotic during the study period. 50 (29.6%) started their delayed course on the day of prescription. Clinician diagnosis of upper respiratory tract/viral infection and clinician's perception of patient's wanting antibiotics were associated with less consumption of the delayed prescription. Patient's wanting antibiotics was associated with greater consumption. Conclusion: Delayed antibiotic prescribing was used infrequently for adults presenting in general practice with acute cough/LRTI. When used, the effect on antibiotic consumption was less than found in most trials. There are opportunities for standardising the intervention and promoting wider uptake.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal of General Practice
Issue number602
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012


  • Anti-bacterial agents
  • Cough
  • Medication adherence
  • Primary health care
  • Respiratory tract infections


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