Skip to main content

Appropriateness of outpatient antibiotic use in seniors across two Canadian provinces

Saatchi S, Reid JN, Povitz M, Shariff SZ, Silverman M, Morris AM, Reyes RC, Patrick DM, Marra F. Antibiotics. 2021; 10(12):1484. Epub 2021 Dec 3. DOI:

Antimicrobials are among the most prescribed medications in Canada, with over 90% of antibiotics prescribed in outpatient settings. Seniors prescribed antimicrobials are particularly vulnerable to adverse drug events and antimicrobial resistance. The extent of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in outpatient Canadian medical practice, and the potential long-term trends in this practice, are unknown. This study is the first in Canada to examine prescribing quality across two large-scale provincial healthcare systems to compare both quantity and quality of outpatient antibiotic use in seniors. Population-based analyses using administrative health databases were conducted in British Columbia (BC) and Ontario (ON), and all outpatient, oral antimicrobials dispensed to seniors (≥65 years) from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2018 were identified. Antimicrobials were linked to an indication using a 3-tiered hierarchy. Tier 1 indications, which always require antibiotics, were given priority, followed by Tier 2 indications that sometimes require antibiotics, then Tier 3, which never require antibiotics. Prescription rates were calculated per 1000 population, and trends were examined overall, by drug class, and by patient demographics. Prescribing remained steady in both provinces, with 11,166,401 prescriptions dispensed overall in BC, and 27,656,014 overall in ON. BC prescribed at slightly elevated rates (range: 790 to 930 per 1000 residents), in comparison to ON (range: 745 to 785 per 1000 residents), throughout the study period. For both provinces, a Tier 3 diagnosis was the most common reason for antibiotic use, accounting for 50% of all indication-associated antibiotic prescribing. Although Tier 3 indications remained the most prescribed-for diagnoses throughout the study period, a declining trend over time is encouraging, with much room for improvement remaining. Elevated prescribing to seniors continues across Canadian outpatient settings, and prescribing quality is of high concern, with 50% of all antimicrobials prescribed inappropriately for common infections that do not require antimicrobials.

View full text