Prudent antibiotic prescribing to hospital inpatients has the potential to reduce the incidences of antimicrobial resistance and healthcare-associated infection. We reviewed the literature from January 1980 to November 2003 to identify rigorous evaluations of interventions to improve hospital antibiotic prescribing. We identified 66 studies with interpretable data of which 16 reported 20 microbiological outcomes: Gram negative resistant bacteria (GNRB), 10 studies; Clostridium difficile associated diarrhoea (CDAD), 5 studies; vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE), 3 studies and methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), 2 studies. Four studies provide good evidence that the intervention changed microbial outcomes with low risk of alternative explanations, eight studies provide less convincing evidence and four studies were negative. The strongest and most consistent evidence was for CDAD but we were able to analyse only the immediate impact of interventions because of nonstandardised durations of follow up. The ability to compare results of studies could be substantially improved by standardising methodology and reporting
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