EU: Antibiotic overuse ‘bell ringing’ – Only 50% know they are ineffective against viruses


About 8% of antibiotics were taken without a prescription

On the eve of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD), half of Europeans still mistakenly believe that antibiotics kill virusesreports a pan-European survey on antimicrobial resistance, according to an announcement by the European Commission.

Simultaneously 23% of respondents have taken antibiotics in the past yearthe lowest percentage since 2009, which shows that the efforts of the Member States and the Commission to contribute to the awareness of citizens about the dangers of excessive use are paying off, the Commission notes, but emphasizes that much more needs to be done.

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Stella Kyriakidou it’s mentioned that “antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. Overuse of antibiotics fuels bacterial resistance to our drugs. This is why antimicrobial resistance is often considered the next big health crisis,” and adds that “the research presented shows why this risk exists.

Combating the silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) must be tackled through a ‘One Health’ approach, including more judicious use of antibiotics in both humans and animals. It is critical for every citizen and every medical professional to be part of this collective effort.”

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest risks to human health and is one of the top 3 health threats identified by the Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) requiring coordinated action at EU level .

According to new data published by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), across the European Union, Iceland and Norway, more than 35,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. Such infections cause an additional €1.5 billion in healthcare costs and productivity losses in the EU.

Eurobarometer survey: only 1 in 2 respondents know that antibiotics are not effective against viruses

More specifically, a special Eurobarometer published reflects the attitude of Europeans towards antibiotics. The main results are as follows:

Antibiotic use has hit an all-time low: 23% of Europeans say they have taken oral antibiotics in the past year, the lowest since 2009. This ranges from 42% in Malta to 15% in Sweden and Germany.

About 8% of antibiotics were taken without a prescription.

A very large proportion of Europeans have taken antibiotics unnecessarily (ie only for viral infections or symptoms).

The survey also showed a worrying lack of public awareness about the appropriate use of antibiotics:

Only half (50%) of respondents know that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses.

Only 3 in 10 Europeans knew that the unnecessary use of antibiotics makes them ineffectivethat antibiotics should only be stopped after treatment is complete, that antibiotics often have side effects such as diarrhea, and that antibiotics are not effective against the common cold.

What is the Commission doing to address this?

The growing threat highlights the need to tackle AMR through a ‘One Health’ approach that recognizes the interactions between human health, animal health and the environment. Earlier this year, new EU rules came into force to ensure that antimicrobials, which are vital to human medicine, remain effective by banning their use in veterinary medicine.

The Commission also published a review of Member States’ national AMR ‘One Health’ action plans. The review found that many Member States would benefit from a stronger ‘One Health’ approach to AMR, taking into account the impact of antibiotics on the environment. The Commission also published an expert panel opinion on effective ways of investing in health to manage AMR across the health system.

In the first half of 2023, the Commission will step up its action on AMR in a proposed Council Recommendation and as part of a proposed review of EU medicines legislation. Later in 2023, the EU will launch a €50 million joint action with Member States, Norway, Iceland and Ukraine on AMR under the EU4Health programme.

Under Horizon 2020, the EU’s research programme, more than €690 million has been mobilized to support research and innovation in the field of AMR. During the first two years of Horizon Europe, €32.5 million was committed to 13 research projects dealing with antimicrobial resistance.


You May Also Like

Recommended for you