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New European Commission report reveals: 7 % of antibiotics are taken without prescription in EU

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an increasing worldwide public health problem with important implications for the EU. Major driving force behind AMR is the non-prudent use of antimicrobial agents in both humans and animals.

New European Commission report, which describes the results of the ARNA (antimicrobial resistance and the causes of non-prudent use of antibiotics) project estimates that 7% of antibiotics in EU are taken without a prescription. There is a large difference between EU Member States in use on antibiotics without a prescription. Highest self-reported use of non-prescription oral antibiotics was in Romania (20% of all antibiotic users in 2013, and 16% in 2016) and Greece (16% of all antibiotic users in 2013, and 20% in 2016). High rates of non-prescription antibiotics use were also found in Latvia, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Hungary. The antibiotics were obtained from either a pharmacy or healthcare provider without a prescription, or were left over from a previous prescription.

Patient surveys in seven of the ARNA countries suggested lack of knowledge about antibiotics was a major determinant of non-prudent use, while surveys of pharmacists found that patient pressure played a role in the decision to sell antibiotics over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription. A majority of pharmacists and general practitioners (GPs) reported being asked to prescribe an antibiotic even though there was no medical indication.

There is a need for clear leadership in all EU Member States by the development and implementation of national plans to combat AMR. Dialogue meetings in six of the ARNA countries—Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Hungary, Romania, and Spain—resulted in several policy recommendations to reduce non-prudent use of antibiotics. The recommendations included public health campaigns to educate patients and healthcare providers on appropriate antibiotic use, efforts to strengthen collaboration between GPs and pharmacists, increased use of rapid diagnostic tests that can be performed at the point-of-care, and better enforcement of laws to prevent OTC sales.

Link to whole report: