Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Br J Gen Pract. 2003 Nov;53(496):871-7.

Do delayed prescriptions reduce antibiotic use in respiratory tract infections? A systematic review.

Author information

  • 1Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. b.arroll@auckland.ac.nz

Erratum in

  • Br J Gen Pract. 2004 Feb;54(499):138.



There is concern about the increasing resistance of antibiotics to common bacteria. Delayed prescribing for respiratory tract infections is a strategy that may reduce the use of antibiotics.


To systematically review controlled trials of delayed prescriptions to establish their capacity to reduce antibiotic intake.


A systematic review of the literature.


Four studies were conducted in the United Kingdom and one in New Zealand.


We searched MEDLINE from 1966 to April 2003, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Controlled Trials Register using the following terms: 'delayed', 'antibiotics', 'prescriptions', and 'back-up' (as in back-up prescription). We included controlled trials of studies in which the intervention was a delayed prescription compared to an immediate prescription for patients with upper respiratory tract infections. The studies were selected independently and the results compared. Disagreements were resolved by discussion. The data and quality of the studies were extracted and assessed independently by two of the authors.


Four randomised controlled trials and one before-after controlled trial contributed to the review. The relative risk in the randomised trials for lower antibiotic usage when a delayed prescription was given ranged from 0.54 for the common cold to 0.25 for otitis media.


The consistent reduction in antibiotic usage in the five controlled trials included in this review suggests that delayed prescription is an effective means of reducing antibiotic usage for acute respiratory infections. The duration of delay for prescriptions ranged widely, from 1 to 7 days.

Comment in

Comment on

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central Icon for PubMed Health
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk