Antibiotic Use in Europe Fell by 15% Last Year

Dawn O'Shea

November 19, 2021

The use of antibiotics in the EU/EEA decreased by over 15% during the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show.

The ECDC says this decrease was observed mostly in primary care and is most likely due to a decrease in consultations, either because of hesitancy to seek healthcare for mild self-limiting infections or difficulties obtaining an appointment.

However, the agency cautions, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) levels remain high for several important bacterial species and antimicrobial groups, with the highest percentages generally reported by countries in the south and east of Europe.

"AMR remains a serious challenge globally," said Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. “AMR is a silent pandemic that is happening here and now. Although antibiotic consumption generally decreased during the pandemic in the EU//EEA, we must increase our public health response. In the EU, we are stepping up our actions and have made the fight against AMR a priority."

The ECDC estimates that more than 670,000 infections occur in the EU/EEA annually due to bacterial resistance to antibiotics, resulting in approximately 33,000 deaths. The health burden is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined.

European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Antimicrobial consumption in the EU/EEA (ESAC-Net). Annual Epidemiological Report for 2020. Published 18 Nov 2021. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/surveillance-antimicrobial-consumption-europe-2020

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