Women are 27% more likely to be prescribed antibiotics than men, which could risk ‘gender inequality of antibiotic prescribing’, researchers have claimed.
The paper, published in the Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, found that the amount of antibiotics received by women was also 25% higher than men.
But Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the RCGP, said that while the results were interesting, there could be reasons other than gender inequality causing the difference seen in the study.
The researchers, who conducted a meta-analysis of 11 previous research papers, investigated antibiotic use in over 44 million people from 10 different countries.
They found that women received more antibiotics than men, especially between the ages of 16 and 54, where women received between 27% and 37% more.
Penicillins were the most commonly prescribed class of antibiotic overall, but the biggest differences between sexes were seen with macrolides and cephalosporins, where the amount received by women was 32% and 44% more than men respectively.
Concluding in the paper, the researchers write: ‘In the struggle to balance rapid and successful treatment of an infection, minimising possible adverse drug effects, and the urgent need to restrict antibiotic use in the community, physicians should keep in mind the risk of gender inequality of antibiotic prescription.
’Our results could play an influential role in designing antibiotic stewardship programmes that should also address reasons for gender inequality in prescription.’
Dr Baker said: ‘The findings of this study are fascinating and can perhaps be explained by the fact that men, particularly aged between 16 and 34, are less likely to seek healthcare treatment than women.
‘Antibiotics can be excellent drugs when used appropriately, but as a society we have become too dependent on them and they are seen as a ‘catch all’ for every illness and infection. As a result, doctors can come under enormous pressure from patients to prescribe antibiotics.’