Data on outpatient macrolide, lincosamide and streptogramin (MLS) 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.Methods
For the period 1997–2003, data on outpatient use of systemic MLS aggregated at the level of the active substance were collected and expressed in DDD (WHO, version 2004) per 1000 inhabitants per day (DID). Macrolide use was analysed in detail, using a classification based on their mean plasma elimination half-life.Results
Total outpatient MLS use in 2003 varied by a factor of 11 between the country with the highest (9.36 DID in Greece) and lowest (0.85 DID in Sweden) use. MLS use showed high seasonal variation. Short-, intermediate- and long-acting macrolides were used most in 6, 18 and 1 countries, respectively (mainly erythromycin, clarithromyin and azithromycin, respectively). Lincosamide use was observed in all countries (mainly clindamycin) and substantial streptogramin use only in France (pristinamycin). From 1997 to 2003, MLS use increased in 14 countries and was most pronounced in Greece (increase of >5 DID). Except for Sweden, a relative increase of intermediate- (mainly clarithromycin) and/or long-acting (mainly azithromycin) macrolide use was observed, at the expense of short-acting macrolide (mainly erythromycin) use.Conclusion
The observed differences between European countries in the levels of MLS use and the extreme seasonal variations in their use suggest that this class of antibiotics is prescribed inappropriately in many countries. The MLS classification developed here facilitates a more comprehensive description of macrolide use in Europe. These data (collected as part of ESAC) could promote investigations that lead to a deeper understanding of the link between macrolide use and resistance.