Antimicrobial stewardship for outpatients with acute respiratory tract infections (ARTIs) should be urgently promoted in this era of antimicrobial resistance. Previous large-sample studies were based on administrative data and had limited reliability. We aimed to identify current antimicrobial prescription practices for ARTIs by directly basing on medical records. This multicenter retrospective study was performed from January to December in 2018, at five medical institutes in Japan. We targeted outpatients aged ≥18 years whose medical records revealed International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) codes suggesting ARTIs. We divided the eligible cases into three age groups (18–64 years, 65–74 years, and ≥75 years). We defined broad-spectrum antimicrobials as third-generation cephalosporins, macrolides, fluoroquinolones, and faropenem. Primary and secondary outcomes were defined as the proportion of antimicrobial prescriptions for the common cold and other respiratory tract infections, respectively. Totally, data of 3,940 patients were collected. Of 2,914 patients with the common cold, 369 (12.7%) were prescribed antimicrobials. Overall, compared to patients aged ≥75 years (8.5%), those aged 18–64 years (16.6%) and those aged 65–74 years (12.1%) were frequently prescribed antimicrobials for the common cold (odds ratio [95% confidential interval]; 2.15 [1.64–2.82] and 1.49 [1.06–2.09], respectively). However, when limited to cases with a valid diagnosis of the common cold by incorporating clinical data, no statistical difference was observed among the age groups. Broad-spectrum antimicrobials accounted for 90.2% of the antimicrobials used for the common cold. Of 1,026 patients with other respiratory infections, 1,018 (99.2%) were bronchitis, of which antimicrobials were prescribed in 49.9% of the cases. Broad-spectrum antimicrobials were the main agents prescribed, accounting for nearly 90% of prescriptions in all age groups. Our data suggested a favorable practice of antimicrobial prescription for outpatients with ARTIs in terms of prescribing proportions, or quantitative aspect. However, the prescriptions were biased towards broad-spectrum antimicrobials, highlighting the need for further antimicrobial stewardship in the outpatient setting from a qualitative perspective.
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