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Report on the use and abuse of antibiotics

The Spanish are suspending the use of antibiotics: up to 60% keep the leftovers to use in case of emergency. This is what the latest analysis of the Cofares Trends Observatory reveals, entitled “Use and abuse of antibiotics: the danger of bacterial resistance”

60% of Spaniards keep leftover antibiotics for an emergency

Image provided by the Helmhotz Infection Research Center (Germany), where a strain of bacteria shows resistance to antibiotics

Six out of ten Spaniards (60.1%) keep the antibiotic they have left over from a treatment to be able to use it in case of emergency, as the latest analysis of the Cofares Trends Observatory: “Use and abuse of antibiotics: the danger of bacterial resistance”.

This conclusion highlights a misuse of this type of drug, which should only be taken with a medical prescription and following the specific indications of the healthcare professional, thus contributing to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

This analysis has been prepared on the occasion of the Global Awareness Week on the Use of Antimicrobialsan initiative of the World Health Organization that this year is celebrated from November 18 to 24 under the motto ‘Let’s prevent antimicrobial resistance together’.

For its development, the Cofares Trends Observatory has carried out, on the one hand, an analysis of the evolution of demand in pharmacies for antibiotic medicines in recent years and, on the other, a sociological investigation to discover what the knowledge of the Spanish population is in relation to antibiotics and bacterial resistance.

Among the results obtained, it appears that nearly a third of the Spanish population (32.1%) does not know what bacterial resistance to antibiotics is.

At the same time, when asked about the impact, a similar percentage (34%) downplays its importance and does not consider this resistance to be a serious problem.

On the other hand, 66.1% consider it to be a serious public health problem with serious consequences.

On the other hand, the analysis shows that almost half of Spaniards (45.8%) have consumed them in the last six months, and it is the younger population that indicates having used antibiotics in a higher percentage ( 61.6%).

Has the body become accustomed to the use of antibiotics?

With regard to the population’s perception of resistance, 23.7% of respondents believe that the antibiotic does not have the same effect as before.

Among them, the majority think that this is because their body is used to it (47.5%) or that the current antibiotics are not prepared to deal with the new bacteria (37.8%).

The remaining 14.7% of those who believe that antibiotics do not have the same effect acknowledge that they do not take them following the strict guidelines of the doctor and/or pharmacist.

However, the majority of respondents consider the pharmacist to be a key healthcare professional when it comes to answering questions about antibiotic medicines.

Specifically, 78.8% resort to it when they have doubts about this.

Evolution of demand in pharmacies

As determined by the latter Trends Observatoryin the years prior to the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, there was a seasonal pattern in the demand for antibiotics, which contemplated significant volumes in six of the twelve months of the year and absolute and relative maxima in the autumn seasons and winter

A pattern that was altered in the 2020-2021 season, when there was a significant decrease in demand.

This is a consequence of the arrival of the pandemic and the corresponding protection measures put in place: home confinement, social distancing, the systematic use of masks and hand hygiene.

After the relaxation of these restrictions, a pattern similar to the pre-pandemic reappears from the autumn of 2021, although without reaching the same levels of demand so far.

This behavior at the national level is replicated in general for all communities, notes this Cofares work.

If we focus on the accumulated demand for antibiotic medicines, we can see a decrease of 3.8% in unit volume compared to pre-pandemic levels.


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