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Concern over antibiotic resistance in France sparks media campaign

Antibiotic use has risen again in France where family doctors prescribe them twice as much as they do in the UK or Germany

The current TV, radio and online campaign warns people that antibiotics are only effective against bacteria and not viruses Pic: i viewfinder / Shutterstock

A campaign for the correct use of antibiotics is under way after figures showed another rise in their use in 2022 (latest figures available), the second in two years.

France is one of the EU’s highest per capita consumers of antibiotics, below only Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Romania, according to figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

GPs prescribe twice as many antibiotics in France as they do in the UK or Germany. 

Read more: French pharmacies now able to prescribe antibiotics…but GPs sceptical

Overuse of antibiotics is causing multiple problems

Overuse of antibiotics is known to build resistance, where bacteria mutate and no longer respond to them. 

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control estimates this contributes to 5,500 deaths a year in France.

It is also leading to an acute shortage of many antibiotics, including one of the most common, Amoxiline.

This is among about 100 drugs listed as officially ‘under pressure’, while another 50 are currently unavailable.

Read more: Alert raised over shortages of antibiotics in pharmacies in France

Media campaign to educate on antibiotics

The current TV, radio and online campaign warns people that antibiotics are effective only against bacteria and not viruses. 

It says drugs should only be taken on medical advice and for the exact time prescribed. Any left-over pills should be dropped off at a pharmacy.

Santé Publique France says that in 2022 there were more than 800 prescriptions per 1,000 of the population outside a hospital environment during the year – a 16.6% rise on 2021, which also saw a rise on 2020.

The figures are skewed by the Covid pandemic years, when usage dropped both due to a reduced number of general medical appointments, and social distancing.

Nonetheless, France had seen a gradual decline in their use since 2012, with the levels in 2022 slightly lower than in 2019.

The government has set a target of a 25% reduction between 2022 and 2025. 

Corsica and PACA use the most antibiotics

The 2022 figures show a 42% increase in use from 2021 in five to 14-year-olds, who are vulnerable to winter epidemics. 

The regions that use the most antibiotics in France are Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Corsica, while Pays-de-la-Loire uses the least.

Women take more than men.

Mean­while, a 49% drop in the use of antibiotics in animals from 2012 to 2022 is being hailed as a success.

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