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Illegal dispensing of antibiotics by European pharmacists needs addressing

By News team

John Chave, the secretary general of the Pharmaceutical Group of the European Union, which represents national associations and professional bodies of community pharmacists in 32 European countries, has condemned the illegal dispensing of antibiotics without a prescription.

Speaking on the subject of encouraging the prudent use of antibiotics, Dr Chave told a meeting held by the European Medicines Agency in London last week (8 November 2013): “With illegal dispensing [of antibiotics in Europe], I won’t mince words about it, we utterly condemn it. It does go on. . . . There is a problem and we need to think of ways to address it.”

He referred to statistics in the Eurobarometer report on antimicrobial resistance, which show that, overall, 95 per cent of Europeans report obtaining antibiotics on prescription or directly from a medical practitioner.

Some 3 per cent of respondents said they had obtained antibiotics without a prescription from a pharmacy and 2 per cent said they had used antibiotics left over from a previous course of treatment.

 

Source: 2009 Eurobarometer on antimicrobial resistance, co-ordinated by the European Commission

 

The Eurobarometer (see graph) shows that in Romania more than one in ten respondents (16 per cent) said that they had obtained antibiotics from a pharmacy without a medical prescription, followed by Lithuania (7 per cent), Greece (7 per cent), Cyprus (6 per cent) and Latvia (6 per cent).  In comparison, the UK was doing better, sitting at 2 per cent.

Mr Chave told the meeting that this was not a question about existing rules and guidelines, because in many countries, there are clear rules about dispensing antibiotics over the counter. “This is substantially a question of why more pharmacists who are doing this illegal activity aren’t caught doing it . . . and that is something we need to think about.”

“Why exactly does it happen? Why if you go to Greece and Romania, and certain other countries, particularly in the South of Europe, and to some extent in the Baltic states, do you see this activity more than others? There are probably a variety of reasons.”

He noted that a study carried out in Spain suggested that the practice was financially motivated but added that cultural factors could play a part. He also highlighted how the “illegal dispensing” situation improved in Spain between 2002 and 2009 following a sustained awareness campaign between the Spanish authorities and pharmacists.

See also:  Resources for European Antibiotic Awareness Day, which will be held on the 18 November

 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11130258

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