Optimizing antibiotic prescribing : collective approaches to managing a common-pool resource

Tarrant, C. ; Colman, A. M. ; Chattoe-Brown, E. ; Jenkins, D. R. ; Mehtar, S. ; Perera, N. ; Krockow, E. M. (2019)

CITATION: Tarrant, C., et al. 2019. Optimizing antibiotic prescribing : collective approaches to managing a common-pool resource. Clinical Microbiology and Infection, 25(11):1356-1363, doi:10.1016/j.cmi.2019.03.008.

The original publication is available at https://www.clinicalmicrobiologyandinfection.com/


Background: Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest threats in 21st century medicine. AMR has been characterized as a social dilemma. A familiar version describes the situation in which a collective resource (in this case, antibiotic efficacy) is exhausted due to over-exploitation. The dilemma arises because individuals are motivated to maximize individual payoffs, although the collective outcome is worse if all act in this way. Objectives: We aim to outline the implications for antimicrobial stewardship of characterizing antibiotic overuse as a social dilemma. Sources: We conducted a narrative review of the literature on interventions to promote the conservation of resources in social dilemmas. Content: The social dilemma of antibiotic over-use is complicated by the lack of visibility and imminence of AMR, a loose coupling between individual actions and the outcome of AMR, and the agency relationships inherent in the prescriber role. We identify seven strategies for shifting prescriber behaviour and promoting a focus on the collectively desirable outcome of conservation of antibiotic efficacy: (1) establish clearly defined boundaries and access rights; (2) raise the visibility and imminence of the problem; (3) enable collective choice arrangements; (4) conduct behaviour-based monitoring; (5) use social and reputational incentives and sanctions; (6) address misalignment of goals and incentives; and (7) provide conflict resolution mechanisms. Implications: We conclude that this theoretic analysis of antibiotic stewardship could make the problem of optimizing antibiotic prescribing more tractable, providing a theory base for intervention development.

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