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ECHRNew study by WHO/Europe and ECDC examines variations in antibiotic consumption in...

New study by WHO/Europe and ECDC examines variations in antibiotic consumption in European countries between 2014 and 2018

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The WHO Regional Office for Europe and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have released a report on the consumption of antibiotics in countries across the WHO European Region. The report highlights changes in consumption of antibiotics in many countries, but it also highlights the need for more detailed data to improve strategies to reduce antimicrobial consumption across the European Region.

Overuse of antibiotics raises the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), where infections become resistant to treatment and potentially life-threatening. The report found some differences in the use of antibiotics between two sets of countries, the ECDC’s European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption Network (ESAC-Net) and WHO/Europe’s Antimicrobial Medicines Consumption (AMC) Network.

The findings show a significant decrease in the consumption of antibacterials in eight ESAC-Net countries: Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. However, figures for the AMC Network were less clear, reflecting the more complicated nature of data collection.

Interpreting the data

The report used overall consumption to measure antibiotic use. However, the study also warns that relying on consumption alone can miss important nuances and is inadequate to assess overall national performance.

The study calls for more detailed analysis of specific groups and individuals within countries. This can help identify useful national interventions to improve the use of antibiotics and promote alignment of clinical practices with international guidance on their responsible use.

The study highlights one example, explaining that where certain antibiotics are not registered, this may affect prescribing practices and cultural preferences of treatment among health professionals.

Gaining a better understanding of these behavioural and cultural factors in health is an important part of the European Programme of Work, 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”, which includes behavioural and cultural insights as one of its core flagship areas.

Looking ahead

The development and implementation of effective national policies to deal with AMR vary across countries in both ESAC-Net and WHO/Europe’s AMC Network. Reliable data are key to monitoring the evolution of AMR. While quantitative research is important, qualitative analysis is essential to provide a full and accurate picture of AMR.

However, this report does show the value of harmonized data collection and analysis to underpin strategies to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

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