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Regulatory Focus™ > News Articles > 11 > WHO Finds Wide Disparities in Antibiotic Use Between Countries

WHO Finds Wide Disparities in Antibiotic Use Between Countries

Posted 12 November 2018 | By Michael Mezher 

WHO Finds Wide Disparities in Antibiotic Use Between Countries

A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) published Monday reveals major differences in the amount of antibiotics consumed by countries around the world and calls for changes in how countries monitor and use antimicrobial drugs.
 
“Overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the leading causes of antimicrobial resistance. Without effective antibiotics and other antimicrobials, we will lose our ability to treat common infections like pneumonia,” said Suzanne Hill, director of the Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products at WHO.
 
The report, which looked at antibiotic use data from 65 countries in terms of defined daily dose (DDD) per 1000 inhabitants per day, found a nearly 15-fold difference in antibiotics consumption between the highest- and lowest-consuming countries.
 
Antibiotic consumption ranged from just 4.44 DDD/1000 inhabitants per day in Burundi to 64.41 DDD/1000 people in Mongolia, while higher-income countries such as Canada (17.05 DDD/1000 people) and South Korea (27.68 DDD/1000 people) fell in between the two extremes.
 
“The large difference in antibiotic use worldwide indicates that some countries are probably overusing antibiotics while other countries may not have sufficient access to these life-saving medicines,” WHO says.
 
Even in the European region, where WHO says the median rate of antibiotic consumption was 17.9 DDD/1000 people per day, the report found a four-fold difference between the high and low-end of antibiotic consumption.
 
Going forward, WHO says it is important for countries to set up national monitoring systems for antibiotic use and implement policies to ensure antibiotics are used appropriately.
 
The report also found differing rates of consumption among types of antibiotics. While antibiotics such as amoxicillin and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, which WHO recommends for first- or second-line treatment for many common infections were the most commonly used worldwide, broad spectrum antibiotics, which WHO says should be used more judiciously, accounted for as much as 50% of antibiotics used in some countries.
 
However, the report also found that many low- and middle-income countries did not report using antibiotics that WHO says should be reserved as last-resort options for specific infections or multidrug-resistant bacteria.
 
“This may indicate that some countries may not have access to these drugs that are necessary for treatment of complicated multidrug-resistant infections,” WHO says. In contrast, countries such as Italy and Spain reported using those antibiotics more frequently than others in the report.
 
While the report shines light on how antibiotics are used around the world, WHO says that national efforts to collect data on antibiotic consumption have led some countries, including Bangladesh and Côte d’Ivoire, to change how they monitor or manage their antibiotics supplies.
 
“The process of implementing national surveillance of antimicrobial consumption has prompted countries to review national regulations, procurement and supply chains of medicines as a starting point to strengthen overall pharmaceutical systems,” WHO writes.
 
WHO, Report

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