The World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled on Monday the first global report on antibiotic consumption for human health, warning particularly against the danger of overuse of antibiotic medicines.
The report, collating data on human consumption of antibiotic medicines from 65 countries and areas, finds wide discrepancies in consumption rates between countries that ranged from about four defined daily doses (DDD) per 1000 inhabitants per day to more than 64 DDD, indicating that some countries are probably overusing antibiotics while others may not have sufficient access to these life-saving medicines.
In WHO Model List of Essential Medicines, antibiotic medicines have been categorized into three types, including the "Access" category for treatment of common infections; the "Watch" category that should be used with caution because of high potential to cause antimicrobial resistance and/or side-effects; and the "Reserve" category which should only be used as last-resort antibiotics.
The report finds that in 49 countries, the Access category represents more than 50 percent of antibiotic consumption, while the use of the Watch category has ranged from less than 20 percent of total antibiotic consumption in some countries to more than 50 percent in others.
As for medicines in the Reserve category, though they account for less than two percent of total antibiotic consumption in most high-income countries, they have not been reported by most low- and middle-income countries, indicating that some countries may not have access to these drugs that are necessary for treatment of complicated multidrug-resistant infections.
According to Suzanne Hill, director of the Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products at WHO, overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the leading causes of antimicrobial resistance.
Besides overuse of antibiotics, drug-resistant infections can also result from poor access to antimicrobials, the report warns. In many low- and middle-income countries, where high mortality rates from infectious diseases and low rates of use of antibiotics were observed, resistance can occur when people cannot afford a full course of treatment or only have access to substandard or falsified medicines.
The WHO is planning to integrate antimicrobial consumption data into its Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System IT platform to provide reliable data on antibiotic consumption and resistance. It will help countries raise awareness of appropriate antimicrobial use, inform policy and regulatory changes to optimize use, and improve the procurement and supply of medicines.