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Women 'more likely' to receive scripts for antibiotics

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Female patients are significantly more likely to receive prescriptions for antibiotics from primary care clinicians than men, suggests latest research.

Women were 27% more likely than men to receive an antibiotic prescription in their lifetimes, according to a review involving 11 studies and over 44 million patients.

“The findings of this study are fascinating and can perhaps be explained by the fact that men… are less likely to seek healthcare treatment than women”

Maureen Baker

The researchers found the amount of antibiotics prescribed to women was 36% higher than that prescribed for men in the 16 to 34 years age group and 40% greater in the 35 to 54 years age group.

In particular, the amounts of cephalosporins and macrolides prescribed to women were 44% and 32% higher, respectively, than those prescribed for men.

The systematic review and meta-analysis was specifically focused on evaluating gender differences in antibiotic prescribing in primary care, said researchers in Germany and Sweden.

They noted that the reasons for inappropriate antibiotic prescription in the community were “not clearly defined”.

“This meta-analysis shows that women in the 16 to 54 years age group receive a significantly higher number of prescriptions of cephalosporins and macrolides in primary care than men do,” said the study authors in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.

“Prospective studies are needed to address reasons for gender inequality in prescription and to determine whether a difference in adverse events, including resistance development, also occurs,” they added.

Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, described the study findings as “fascinating”.

Maureen Baker

182Maureen Baker

Maureen Baker

She suggested they could “perhaps be explained by the fact that men, particularly aged between 16 and 34, are less likely to seek healthcare treatment than women”.

“Whatever the reason, growing resistance to antibiotics is an increasing and global concern – and everybody has a responsibility to help curb this trend,” she said.

Dr Baker recommended UK prescribers use the TARGET toolkit, which has been developed by the college and Public Health England to support making decisions about prescribing antibiotics.

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