Prevalence of antibiotic use: a comparison across various European health care data sources

Ruth Brauer*, Ana Ruigomez, Gerry Downey, Andrew Bate, Luis Alberto Garcia Rodriguez, Consuelo Huerta, Miguel Gil, Francisco de Abajo, Gema Requena, Yolanda Alvarez, Jim Slattery, Mark de Groot, Patrick Souverein, Ulrik Hesse, Marietta Rottenkolber, Sven Schmiedl, Frank de Vries, Maurille Feudjo Tepie, Raymond Schlienger, Liam SmeethIan Douglas, Robert Reynolds, Olaf Klungel

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose There is widespread concern about increases in antibiotic use, but comparative data from different European countries on rates of use are lacking. This study was designed to measure and understand the variation in antibiotic utilization across five European countries. MethodsSeven European healthcare databases with access to primary care data from Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK were used to measure and compare the point and 1-year-period prevalence of antibiotic use between 2004 and 2009. Descriptive analyses were stratified by gender, age and type of antibiotic. Separate analyses were performed to measure the most common underlying indications leading to the prescription of an antibiotic. ResultsThe average yearly period prevalence of antibiotic use varied from 15 (Netherlands) to 30 (Spain) users per 100 patients. A higher prevalence of antibiotic use by female patients, the very young (0-9years) and old (80+years), was observed in all databases. The lowest point prevalence was recorded in June and September and ranged from 0.51 (Netherlands) to 1.47 (UK) per 100 patients per day. Twelve percent (Netherlands) to forty-nine (Spain) percent of all users were diagnosed with a respiratory tract infection, and the most common type of antibiotic prescribed were penicillin. ConclusionUsing identical methodology in seven EU databases to assess antibiotic use allowed us to compare drug usage patterns across Europe. Our results contribute quantitatively to the true understanding of similarities and differences in the use of antibiotic agents in different EU countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
JournalPharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • descriptive study
  • primary care databases
  • international comparisons
  • antibiotic agents
  • pharmacoepidemiology

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