We compared community antibiotic use in the four administrations of the UK with that in other European countries.
A cross-sectional analysis of 24 European countries and UK administrations in 2005 with longitudinal analysis of data from Belgium and UK from 1997 was performed. Antibiotic use was measured as defined daily doses per 1000 inhabitants per day (DID) or as prescriptions or packages per 1000 inhabitants per day (PID) with aggregate data from patients who received antibiotics in the primary care or outpatient setting.
In 2005, there were marked differences in antibiotic prescriptions between the four UK administrations, for example, in descending order of DIDs, Northern Ireland and England ranked 8th and 24th, respectively, out of the 28 countries. DIDs for Northern Ireland were 37% greater than that for England. Longitudinal analysis showed that differences were present before devolution in 1999. Increase in the age of exemption from prescription charges in Wales in 2002 was not associated with significant change in use in comparison with the other UK countries. There were discrepancies between changes in DID and changes in PID, particularly in Belgium. This suggests that some changes in DID were due to changes in dosing or duration of the treatment rather than in the number of people treated and shows the importance of using both measures.
The European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption project has for the first time made data about antibiotic use in the four UK administrations publicly available. This reveals important practice variations that should stimulate research to explain differences and assess their consequences.