Antibiotic consumption in Europe decreased by 18% in 2020

According to a study by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in 2020, there was an 18.3% reduction in antibiotic consumption by citizens in Europe compared to 2019.

The decline – the largest in two decades on an annualized basis – is seen in almost all European countries studied (26 out of 27) and is mainly due to the coronavirus pandemic.

From 2016 to 2018, the consumption of antibiotics decreased on average by 1.8% per year, and in the period from 2018 to 2019. decreased many times, by 18.3%. The trend was observed among various types of antibiotics such as penicillins, cephalosporins, macrolides, etc.

“We need to further reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.”
However, according to ECDC researchers, who published a report in Eurosurveillance, levels of antimicrobial resistance remain high for several important bacterial combinations, especially in southern and eastern Europe.

The experts stressed that it remains to be seen whether the decline in antibiotic consumption will continue in 2021, and whether this will affect antimicrobial resistance in Europe.

According to European Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou, “Antimicrobial resistance remains a serious problem around the world. It is a ‘hidden pandemic’ that is happening here and now: ‘While the use of antibiotics in the EU / EOC has generally declined, we need to strengthen the public health response.’

ECDC Director Andrea Amon said: “While we are focused on the ongoing pandemic, we must persevere in our efforts to further reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.”

The number of visits to doctors in the midst of the pandemic fell
The decline in antibiotic use in the past year is largely due to the decline in doctor visits in the midst of the pandemic, which has led to fewer prescription drugs for mild infections that do not require hospitalization. This has become especially evident in countries that have recorded “drug abuse”, such as Greece.

The ECDC estimates that more than 670,000 infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria occur annually in Europe, and about 33,000 people die from them. The number of deaths from infections due to antimicrobial resistance is comparable to the number of deaths from influenza, tuberculosis and AIDS combined.

This year, from 17 to 24 November, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week will be held at the initiative of the World Health Organization. In the EU, the relevant date, European Antibiotic Awareness Day, is 18 November.

As “Russian Athens” previously wrote, according to the OECD’s annual health report, Greeks are the world’s leaders in the uncontrolled use of antibiotics.

The alarming results of the 2018 OECD report suggest that in Greece, 38% of infectious diseases have (mild to severe) bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Moreover, when in countries such as Norway and the Netherlands, the figure does not exceed 5%.

Italy and Greece are two countries where the problem of diseases that are difficult to control, as bacteria show resistance to antibiotics, will lead to high mortality in the future, the report says. In fact, experts came to the conclusion that in our country from 2015 to 2050 there will be 69,774 deaths due to infectious diseases, the bacteria of which are resistant to antibiotics.

Italy has the highest mortality rate (18 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year), followed by Greece (about 15 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants per year). In Cyprus, the ratio looks like this: 7 deaths per 100,000 people per year.

Dramatic rates of growth in antibiotic resistance of pathogens can lead to “catastrophic consequences”, the WHO report says.

In some countries, the WHO report goes on to say, the two main antibiotics used to treat these diseases fail in more than half of patients.

One of these antibiotics, carbapenem, belongs to a class of so-called last-line drugs that are prescribed for severe cases of pneumonia, sepsis of the blood, and infections in newborns caused by the bacterium K.pneumoniae.

It has long been known that bacteria mutate and gradually acquire the ability to resist the action of antibiotics, however, the misuse of such drugs, their overly generous prescription by doctors and patients not completing the course of treatment, contribute to the acceleration of the process of resistance.

For example, the resistance of bacteria of the class E. coli, which cause infections of the genitourinary system, has increased from zero in the 1980s to 50% or more today.

The WHO report concludes that “the time has come to take urgent action: improve hygienic living conditions for the population, ensure adequate supply and access to clean water, control hospital infections and introduce widespread vaccination to reduce the need for antibiotics.”

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