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Increase in Global Antibiotics Consumption Driven by Income Gains

A study finds substantial growth in use of the drugs this century, linked to gains in wealth in low- and middle-income countries.

Mar 27, 2018
Shawna Williams

PIXABAY, JNITTYMAA0Per capita antibiotic consumption across 76 countries increased by 39 percent between 2000-2015, according to a new analysis, an increase driven largely by economic growth in low- and middle-income countries. The study, which appeared yesterday (March 26) in PNAS, is bad news for public health efforts to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance by curbing unnecessary use of the drugs.

The authors of the study note that access to antibiotics is important for treating infectious disease. However, “[a]s lower- and middle-income countries increase their economic growth and start to use antibiotics more, we don’t want them to fall into the same trap that higher-income countries have,” study coauthor Eili Y. Klein of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy (CDDEP) in Washington, D.C., tells the Philadelphia Inquirer. “While we need to reduce consumption globally, we need to do it in a safe and effective manner that still allows low-income countries access to antibiotics.”

According to the study, in the 16-year period investigated by the researchers, overall antibiotic consumption in high-income countries such as the U.S., France, and Hong Kong increased by 6 percent—but fell by 4 percent on a per capita basis. By contrast, in the low- and middle-income countries studied, antibiotic consumption increased 114 percent overall, and the per capita consumption rate grew by 77 percent. The consumption rate in the richer countries remained higher than that in poorer countries, however.

“We must act decisively and we must act now, in a comprehensive manner, to preserve antibiotic effectiveness,” study coauthor Ramanan Laxminarayan of CDDEP says in a statement. “That includes solutions that reduce consumption, such as vaccines or infrastructure improvements, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries.

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