Significant Reduction of Antibiotic Use in the Community after a Nationwide Campaign in France, 2002-2007

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Citation: Elifsu Sabuncu, Julie David, Claire Bernede-Bauduin, Sophie Pepin, Michel Leroy, Pierre-Yves Boelle, Laurence Watier, Didier Guillemot (2009/06) Significant Reduction of Antibiotic Use in the Community after a Nationwide Campaign in France, 2002-2007. PLoS Med (Volume 6) (RSS)
DOI (original publisher): 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000084
Semantic Scholar (metadata): 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000084
Sci-Hub (fulltext): 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000084
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Significant Reduction of Antibiotic Use in the Community after a Nationwide Campaign in France, 2002-2007
Tagged: Medicine (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)



In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, the first antibiotic (a drug that kills bacteria). By the early 1940s, large amounts of penicillin could be made and, in the following decades, several other classes of powerful antibiotics were discovered. For a time, it looked like bacteria and the diseases that they cause had been defeated. But bacteria rapidly became resistant to these wonder drugs and nowadays, antibiotic resistance is a pressing public-health concern. Almost every type of disease-causing bacteria has developed resistance to one or more antibiotic in clinical use, and multidrug-resistant bacteria are causing outbreaks of potentially fatal diseases in hospitals and in the community. For example, multidrug-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae (multidrug-resistant pneumococci or MRP) is now very common. S. pneumoniae colonize the nose and throat (the upper respiratory tract) and can cause diseases that range from mild ear infections to life-threatening pneumonia, particularly in young children and elderly people.

Why Was This Study Done?

For years, doctors have been prescribing (and patients have been demanding) antibiotics for viral respiratory infections (VRIs) such as colds and flu even though antibiotics do not cure viral infections. This overuse of antibiotics has been the main driving force in the spread of MRP. Thus, the highest rate of S. pneumoniae antibiotic resistance in Europe occurs in France, which has one of the highest rates of antibiotic consumption in the world. In 2001 France initiated “le plan national pour préserver l'efficacité des antibiotiques” to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics, particularly for the treatment of VRIs among children. The main component of the program was the “Antibiotiques c'est pas automatique” (“Antibiotics are not automatic”) campaign, which ran from 2002 to 2007 during the winter months when VRIs mainly occur. The campaign included an educational campaign for health care workers, the promotion of rapid tests for diagnosis of streptococcal infections, and a public information campaign about VRIs and about antibiotic resistance. In this study, the researchers evaluate the campaign by analyzing outpatient antibiotic use throughout France from 2000 to 2007.

What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

The researchers obtained information about antibiotic prescriptions and about the occurrence of flu-like illnesses during the study period from the French National Health Insurance database and national disease surveillance system, respectively. After adjusting for variations in the frequency of flu-like illnesses, compared to the preintervention period (2000–2002), the number of antibiotic prescriptions per 100 inhabitants decreased by a quarter over the five winters of the “Antibiotics are not automatic” campaign. The use of all major antibiotic classes except quinolones decreased in all 22 regions of France. Thus, whereas in 2000, more than 70 prescriptions per 100 inhabitants were issued during the winter in 15 regions, by 2006/7, no regions exceeded this prescription rate. The greatest decrease in prescription rate (a decrease of more than a third by 2006/7) was among children aged 6–15 years. Finally, although the rates of antibiotic prescriptions reflected the rates of flu-like illness throughout the campaign, by 2006/7 this relationship was much weaker, which suggests that fewer antibiotics were being prescribed for VRIs.

What Do These Findings Mean?

These findings indicate that the “Antibiotics are not automatic” campaign was associated with a reduction in antibiotic prescriptions, particularly in children. Because the whole French population was exposed to the campaign, these findings do not prove that the campaign actually caused the reduction in antibiotic prescriptions. The observed decrease might have been caused by other initiatives in France or elsewhere or by the introduction of a S. pneumoniae vaccine during the study period, for example. However, an independent survey indicated that fewer members of the public expected an antibiotic prescription for a VRI at the end of the campaign than at the start, that more people knew that antibiotics only kill bacteria, and that doctors were more confident about not prescribing antibiotics for VRIs. Thus, campaigns like “Antibiotics are not automatic” may be a promising way to reduce the overuse of antibiotics and to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance until new classes of effective antibiotics are developed.

The original author of this summary is PLOS Medicine. It is republished on AcaWiki under the Creative Commons Attribution license.

This was published in an open access journal.