Essential and Forgotten antibiotics: an inventory in low- and middle-income countries

European Society of Clinical Microbiology, Infectious Diseases Study Group for Antimicrobial Stewardship, Gianpiero Tebano (Lead / Corresponding author), Grace Li, Bojana Beovic, Julia Bielicki, Adrian Brink, Mushira A. Enani, Brian Godman, Sylvia Lemos Hinrichsen, Dan Kibuule, Levy-Hara Gabriel, Oyinlola Oduyebo, Mike Sharland, Sanjeev Singh, Heiman F.l. Wertheim, Dilip Nathwani, Céline Pulcini

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Citations (Scopus)
    54 Downloads (Pure)


    Background: The World Health Organization Essential Medicines List (WHO-EML) includes ‘access’ antibiotics, judged essential to treat common infections. The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Study Group for Antimicrobial Stewardship defined a list of ‘forgotten’ antibiotics, some old and often off-patent antibiotics, which have particular value for specific indications. Objective: To investigate which WHO-EML ‘access’ and ‘forgotten’ antibiotics are approved at national level in a sample of low- to middle-income countries (LMICs).

    Methods: The Scientific Committee used a consensus procedure to select 26 WHO-EML ‘access’ and 15 ‘forgotten’ antibiotics. Paediatric formulations were explored for 14 antibiotics. An internet-based questionnaire was circulated to 40 LMIC representatives. Antibiotics were defined as approved if an official drug regulatory agency and/or the national ministry of health licensed their use, making them, at least theoretically, available on the market.

    Results: Twenty-eight LMICs (11 in Africa, 11 in Asia and six in America) were surveyed. Nine WHO-EML ‘access’ antibiotics (amoxicillin, ampicillin, benzylpenicillin, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, gentamicin and metronidazole) were approved in all countries, and all 26 ‘access’ antibiotics were approved in more than two-thirds of countries. Among the 15 ‘forgotten’ antibiotics, only one was approved in more than two-thirds of countries. The median number of approved antibiotics per country was 30 (interquartile range 23–35). Six of 14 paediatric formulations (amoxicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, oral antistaphylococcal penicillin, cotrimoxazole, erythromycin and metronidazole) were approved in more than two-thirds of countries.

    Conclusions: WHO-EML ‘access’ antibiotics and the most frequently used formulations for paediatrics were approved in the vast majority of the 28 surveyed LMICs. This was not the case for many of the ‘forgotten’ antibiotics, despite their important role, particularly in areas with high prevalence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)273-282
    Number of pages10
    JournalInternational Journal of Antimicrobial Agents
    Issue number3
    Early online date28 Jun 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


    • Access
    • Antibiotic access
    • Low- and middle-income countries
    • Antibiotic stewardship Survey
    • Survey
    • Antibiotic stewardship
    • Prevalence
    • World Health Organization
    • Global Health
    • Humans
    • Developing Countries
    • Anti-Bacterial Agents/therapeutic use
    • Communicable Diseases/drug therapy

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Microbiology (medical)
    • Infectious Diseases
    • Pharmacology (medical)


    Dive into the research topics of 'Essential and Forgotten antibiotics: an inventory in low- and middle-income countries'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this