The effect of primary care availability on antibiotic consumption in Hungary: a population based panel study using unfilled general practices (Bíró, Elek 2019)

Objective We analyse the effect of primary care availability on antibiotic consumption and on the quality of antibiotic prescribing behaviour.

Design Retrospective panel design, secondary analysis of settlement-level administrative panel data (n=2320 settlements, T=72 months).

Participants and setting We analyse antibiotic consumption of the population of villages in Hungary, over years 2010 to 2015. We exploit the geographical and time variation in unfilled (mainly single-handed) general practices as a source of exogenous variation in the availability of primary care. We control for socioeconomic characteristics and settlement fixed effects in a panel regression framework.

Outcome measures Antibiotic expenditures and days of therapy (DOT); consumption of narrow-spectrum and broad-spectrum antibiotics; consumption of Access, Watch and Reserve antibiotics according to the AWaRe categorisation; number of visits to the general practitioner (GP).

Results If the general practice of a village becomes unfilled, the number of GP visits decreases on average by 9.3% (95% CI 5.6% to 12.9%), antibiotics DOT decrease on average by 3.2% (95% CI 1.0% to 5.4%) and expenditures on antibiotics decrease on average by 2.5% (95% CI 0.3% to 4.7%). The negative effect on antibiotic consumption is stronger in settlements where secondary care is less available, and where antibiotics were previously overprescribed. The quality of prescribing behaviour measured by the relative changes in the narrow-spectrum vs broad-spectrum as well as the Access versus Watch and Reserve antibiotics deteriorates significantly as a consequence of worse primary care availability.

Conclusions Limited availability of primary care reduces the consumption of antibiotics and at the same time impairs the quality of prescriptions through a decrease of the number of doctor-patient encounters.