European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (ESAC): outpatient cephalosporin use in Europe (1997–2009)

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Data on 13 years of outpatient cephalosporin use were collected from 33 European countries within the European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (ESAC) project, funded by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and analysed in detail.


For the period 1997–2009, data on outpatient use of systemic cephalosporins aggregated at the level of the active substance were collected using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC)/defined daily dose (DDD) method (WHO, version 2011) and expressed in DDD per 1000 inhabitants per day (DID). For detailed analysis of trends over time, seasonal variation and composition of outpatient cephalosporin use in 33 European countries, we distinguished between first-generation (J01DB), second-generation (J01DC), third-generation (J01DD) and fourth-generation (J01DE) cephalosporins.


Total outpatient cephalosporin use in 2009 varied from 8.7 DID in Greece to 0.03 DID in Denmark. In general, use was higher in Southern and Eastern European countries than in Northern European countries. Total outpatient cephalosporin use increased over time by 0.364 (SD 0.473) DID between 1997 and 2009. Cephalosporin use increased for half of the countries. Low-consuming Northern European countries and the UK further decreased their use. Second-generation cephalosporins increased by >20% in seven countries (mainly cefuroxime), coinciding with a decrease in first-generation cephalosporins. Substantial parenteral use of third-generation substances (mainly ceftriaxone) was observed in France, Italy and the Russian Federation.


Since 1997, the use of the older (narrow-spectrum) cephalosporins decreased in favour of the newer (i.e. broad-spectrum) cephalosporins in most countries. Extreme variations between European countries in cephalosporin use over time suggest that they are to a large extent inappropriately used.

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