European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (ESAC): outpatient penicillin use in Europe

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Data on outpatient penicillin use in Europe were collected from 25 countries within the ESAC project, funded by DG SANCO of the European Commission, using the WHO ATC/DDD methodology.


For the period 1997–2003, data on outpatient use of systemic penicillins aggregated at the level of the active substance were collected and expressed in DDD (WHO, version 2004) per 1000 inhabitants per day (DID). Of the ‘Penicillins’ (J01C), outpatient use of narrow-spectrum penicillins (J01CE), broad-spectrum penicillins (J01CA), penicillinase-resistant penicillins (J01CF) and combinations with β-lactamase inhibitors (J01CR) in 25 European countries was analysed in detail.


Total outpatient penicillin use in 2003 varied by a factor of 4 between the country with the highest (15.27 DID in Slovakia) and lowest use (3.86 DID in the Netherlands). Narrow-spectrum penicillins, broad-spectrum penicillins and combinations with β-lactamase inhibitors were used most in 4, 12 and 9 countries, respectively. Penicillin use increased by more than 1 DID in nine countries, whereas it decreased by more than 1 DID in two countries (Czech Republic, France). An increase of the use of combinations with β-lactamase inhibitors by more than 10% in 10 countries coincided with an equal decrease of broad-spectrum penicillins in seven countries and narrow-spectrum penicillins in three countries.


Penicillins represent the most widely used antibiotic class in all 25 participating countries; albeit with considerable variation of their use patterns. A distinct shift from narrow-spectrum penicillins to broad-spectrum penicillins, and specifically their combinations with β-lactamase inhibitors, was observed during the period 1997–2003.

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