Reducing demand for antibiotic prescriptions: evidence from an online survey of the general public on the interaction between preferences, beliefs and information, United Kingdom, 2015
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BACKGROUND: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a major public health threat, is strongly associated with human antibiotic consumption. Influenza-like illnesses (ILI) account for substantial inappropriate antibiotic use; patient understanding and expectations probably play an important role. AIM: This study aimed to investigate what drives patient expectations of antibiotics for ILI and particularly whether AMR awareness, risk preferences (attitudes to taking risks with health) or time preferences (the extent to which people prioritise good health today over good health in the future) play a role. METHODS: In 2015, a representative online panel survey of 2,064 adults in the United Kingdom was asked about antibiotic use and effectiveness for ILI. Explanatory variables in multivariable regression included AMR awareness, risk and time preferences and covariates. RESULTS: The tendency not to prioritise immediate gain over later reward was independently strongly associated with greater awareness that antibiotics are inappropriate for ILI. Independently, believing antibiotics were effective for ILI and low AMR awareness significantly predicted reported antibiotic use. However, 272 (39%) of those with low AMR awareness said that the AMR information we provided would lead them to ask a doctor for antibiotics more often, significantly more than would do so less often, and in contrast to those with high AMR awareness (p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: Information campaigns to reduce AMR may risk a paradoxical consequence of actually increasing public demand for antibiotics. Public antibiotic stewardship campaigns should be tested on a small scale before wider adoption.
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