A survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed huge variations in the use of antibiotics across the world, with certain countries recording very high levels of consumption.
The WHO Report on Surveillance of Antibiotic Consumption, published during World Antibiotic Awareness Week, gathered data on antibiotics use in 2015 across 65 countries and areas.
WHO said that the data could provide better insights into the patterns and volume of antibiotics use at national level, in turn supporting policies and regulations to optimise consumption.
A measure called defined daily dose (DDD), the average dose taken by a patient per day, was used to compare the medicine consumption between countries.
Six African countries, six in the Americas and 46 European countries participated in the survey. Overall consumption of antibiotics in these countries and areas varied from 4.4 to 64.4 DDD per 1000 inhabitants per day.
Burundia reported the lowest antibiotics use with 4.44 DDD per 1000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, Mongolia had the highest of 64.41 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants, and was followed by Iran which recorded 38.78.
In the European region, Azerbaijan had the lowest rate of 7.66 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants. Turkey stood at the top with 38.18 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants.
The UK had a higher than average consumption at around 20 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants per day.
In the report, WHO said: “The use of antibiotics appears to be very high in some parts of the world, suggesting their overuse, whereas it is low in others, which may indicate limited access to these life-saving medicines.
“Findings from this report confirm the need to take action to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately, such as enforcing prescription-only policies and implementing antimicrobial stewardship programmes.”
The report further looked at the type of antibiotics used. Access category of antibiotics, including amoxicillin and amoxicillin/clavulanic acid, were found to occupy more than 50% of the total amount consumed.
However, the proportion of Broad spectrum antibiotics, belonging to Watch category, varied around 20%-50% across countries.
The report showed that reserve group antibiotics, which are to be used as ‘last resort’ for specific indications, contributed less than 2% of the total antibiotics used in majority of the high-income countries.
Certain countries, including the US, China and South-East Asian regions such as India, were not in the survey.
WHO added: “WHO aims to increase the number of countries participating in the global programme on surveillance of antimicrobial consumption and to continue supporting low- and middle-income countries in their efforts to build and improve surveillance systems on antimicrobial consumption adapted to the national context.”