A new publication from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) examined seasonal trends in antibiotic use and the impact of COVID-19 on this. Data from Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance illustrate the seasonal ups and downs of respiratory infections. Earlier HCCI research showed that hospitalizations from respiratory illness increased in the winter months (November to March) and declined over the summer (June to September). Prescriptions of antibiotics and similar medications also demonstrate a cycle of increased respiratory illness in the winter and decreases in the summer months.
Unsurprisingly, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have disrupted this longstanding cyclical trend. HCCI’s earlier work showed that COVID hospitalizations dwarfed admissions for other respiratory infections from April through December of 2020. Pneumonia hospitalization rates dropped by more than half, from about 40 per 100,000 in April 2019 to 16 per 100,000 in April 2020, with admission rates remaining in the low teens through the end of the year. This analysis of antibiotic prescriptions illustrates a similar pattern of the seasonal cycle of respiratory illness being disrupted in 2020.
Researchers used HCCI’s unique employer sponsored insurance claims dataset, Medicare Part D claims, and Medicaid TMSIS files to examine use of four categories of antibiotic prescription drugs: Penicillin, Macrolides, Tetracycline, and Antibiotic Resistant Treatment (ABRT).