19 December 2018

Which drugs are most often prescribed by GPs?

Clinical Research

Opioids, penicillin, antidepressants and medications for peptic ulcers and gastro-oesophageal reflux disease are the drugs prescribed by GPs most often, according to a new report.

NPS MedicineWise’s General practice insights report, released this week, showed that opioids made up 11% of original prescriptions, while penicillin, antidepressants and peptic ulcer drugs comprised 9%, 8%, and 8%, respectively.

The data was drawn from MedicineInsight, which contained information on two million patients who collectively saw around 2,700 GPs in the 2016–17 financial year.

Concerningly, GPs prescribed penicillin to around one-quarter of patients in this cohort over one year (a total of 517,370 original prescriptions).

This high rate placed Australia in the top ten OECD nations for antibiotics prescribing.

Around 60% of antibiotics were prescribed for upper respiratory tract infections, even though antibiotics were not generally recommended for these infections.

The report also revealed that the six most-common conditions among patients were hypertension (7% of patients), depression (6%), dyslipidaemia (4%), anxiety (4%), asthma (4%) and gastro-oesophageal disease (4%).


Patients were each given an average of 3.4 new prescriptions during the study period. “The average number of prescriptions was higher for females, increased with age and was highest among patients aged 80 years and older,” the report said.

Editors note: This article was corrected on 21 December to remove the following quotation: “‘Cefalexin was regularly used for urinary tract infections, and skin or soft-tissue infections, although it is not recommended as a first-line treatment for these conditions,’ the report said.” Most UTIs require antibiotics.

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6 Comments on "Which drugs are most often prescribed by GPs?"

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Ralph Vida
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Ralph Vida
6 months 2 days ago

‘Concerningly’ my arse
You try getting these helicopter parents outta the consulting room without a prescription.
Besides, counting the no. of scripts written does not take into account the percentage that are told NOT to have this dispensed immediately but to wait for escalating bother.

Of course I would dearly prefer to give them the following in reality…

Lou Lewis
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Lou Lewis
6 months 3 days ago
Fortunately this article , namely, “Which drugs are most often prescribed by GPs?” was written by TMR staff and not an individual reporter so I don’t feel bad about criticising the uselessness of such an article! Really what is the purpose of writing such an article? If a majority of GPs prescribed these medications for these common conditions then surely a majority of GPs are not absolute morons who are being indifferent to the adverse effects of inappropriate prescribing? Please give us GPs the respect we deserve with regards to our prescribing habits rather than painting a negative picture of… Read more »
Marc Heyning
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6 months 4 days ago
What I find odd is that the most common conditions seen do not include any diagnoses that require analgesia (hypertension, depression,…. etc) therefore I would question the wording of “original prescriptions”. Does this term refer to “new prescriptions”? In that case, the most common drugs prescribed would be for hypertension, depression, dyslipidaemia, etc and ‘new”, possibly one-off prescriptions might include analgesics, penicillin,….. That might make sense but the headlines would not be anywhere near as ‘sensational’. By the way, according to eTG, cephalexin is one of the first-line alternative choices for UTI Rx in adults and is first -line for… Read more »
Phat Phullah
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6 months 5 days ago

There are only 36 OECD nations so who cares if we are in the top ten? This is a feature of a rich country. We should be happy.

Dr Kingsley Mudd
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Dr Kingsley Mudd
6 months 5 days ago

Hmmm …. just looked up Electronic Therapeutic Guidelines July 2018. it says cephalexin is a first-line agent for UTI, and for skin infections in children or where the is penicillin hypersensitivity. Has something changed in the last 6 months? Or have the authors got their facts wrong?

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