The COVID-19 pandemic led to rapid changes in demand and delivery of primary care services that could have led to increases in antibiotic prescribing.
We investigated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on oral antibiotic dispensing rates in primary care in Wales using longitudinal analysis of monthly oral antibiotic dispensing data from 1 April 2018 to 30 April 2021.
We used All-Wales primary care dispensing data. We examined trends in oral antibiotic dispensing per 1,000 people for Wales and for individual Health Boards. We used interrupted time series analysis to estimate changes in trends pre- and post-April 2020 to assess the impact of the first and subsequent lockdowns.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, antibiotic dispensing in Wales was lower compared with the same period in 2018 and 2019, with an average monthly decrease of 14.00 dispensed items per 1,000 registered patients (95% confidence interval 19.89-8.11). The overall prepandemic monthly antibiotic dispensing rate ranged from 48.5 to 67.4 antibiotic items per 1,000 registered patients. From the onset of the pandemic, it ranged from 40.3 to 49.07 antibiotic items per 1,000 registered patients. This reduction was primarily driven by narrow-spectrum antibiotics. Statistically significant reductions were also observed for antibiotics commonly dispensed for the treatment of respiratory tract infections. Dispensing of antibiotics primarily used for urinary and skin infections remained stable.
Despite complexities of consulting during the COVID-19 pandemic in primary care we found no evidence of an increase in antibiotic dispensing during this time.

© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press.