Printer Friendly

Self-medication with antimicrobial drugs in Europe.

We surveyed the populations of 19 European countries to compare the prevalence of antimicrobial drug self-medication in the previous 12 months and intended self-medication and storage and to identify the associated demographic characteristics. By using a multistage sampling design, 1,000-3,000 adults in each country were randomly selected. The prevalence of actual self-medication varied from 1 to 210 per 1,000 and intended self-medication from 73 to 449 per 1,000; both rates were high in eastern and southern Europe and low in northern and western Europe. The most common reasons for self-medication were throat symptoms (e.g., dry, inflamed, red, or sore throat, inflamed tonsils, tonsil pain). The main medication sources were pharmacies and medication leftover from previous prescriptions. Younger age, higher education, and presence of a chronic disease were associated with higher rates of self-medication. Attempts to reduce inappropriate self-medication should target prescribers, pharmacists, and the general public.


Antimicrobial drug resistance is a rapidly increasing global problem (1,2), and prevalence varying widely among countries (3). Prevalence of resistance is positively correlated with prescribed outpatient drug use on a national level (4,5). However, actual consumption of drugs may also include self-medication, i.e., using drugs obtained without prescription. Other sources of self-medication may include leftover drugs from treatment courses prescribed earlier or drugs obtained from relatives or friends. Use without medical guidance is inappropriate because using insufficient dosages or incorrect or unnecessary drugs increases the risk of the selection of resistant bacteria (6) and the spread of antimicrobial drug resistance (7).

To date, the information on self-medication with antimicrobial drugs in the industrialized world is limited. In the United States, several studies indicate considerable use of leftovers (8-10), drugs obtained from a family member, a pharmacy, or a source outside the country (11,12). For example, in an Hispanic neighborhood of New York City, antimicrobial drugs are available without a prescription (13). In Europe, studies describing self-medication and storage of antimicrobial drugs in Spain (14,15), Greece (16,17), Russia (18), and Malta (19) also suggest considerable use of the drugs without consulting a physician. However, these studies were small or used selected samples and were not carried out in northern and western Europe. Moreover, because of the different research methods used, no meaningful comparison between countries was possible. In addition, little information exists on factors that puts person at-risk for self-medication. This survey was designed to fill that gap for 19 European countries: Austria, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Malta, Luxembourg, Belgium, Spain, Israel, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, and Poland. The aim of this study was to estimate and compare the prevalence of actual self-medication and at-risk for self-medication with antimicrobial drugs in participating countries. The demographic characteristics associated with such use, the types of drugs used, the sources of self-medication, the symptoms for which the drugs were reportedly used, and duration of use were also examined.


Countries participating in the study were recruited from 2 networks of surveillance systems: European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (20) and European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (21). A multistage sampling design was used for sample selection in each participating country. Within each country, a region with average prescribed antimicrobial drug consumption was chosen. In those countries where this information was not available (Poland, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Croatia, and Romania), a region was selected that was representative of the country's population in terms of age and sex. In each region, a city (75,000-750,000 inhabitants) and a rural area (5,000-10,000) were selected. By using population registries, including lists of persons in the identified cities and rural areas, persons [greater than or equal to] 18 years of age were selected by simple random sampling (computer-generated random numbers). To calculate the sample size, we needed the standard deviation of the unknown prevalence. As the standard deviation was a function of this unknown prevalence, we took the maximal possible value of the standard deviation (22). To obtain a precision of 0.05, the sample size needed was 400 persons per country. To adjust for possible nonresponse, we selected larger samples; sample sizes in the countries were 1,000-3,000 persons, equally distributed in urban and rural areas. Self-administered questionnaires were mailed between March and July 2003, and reminders with a new questionnaire attached were sent 2-4 weeks later.

We developed an English questionnaire specifically for this survey, translated it into national languages, and back-translated it to ensure consistency. (1) The questionnaire was pilot-tested in each country. It could be completed either anonymously or with identifiable details to allow a follow-up study. Questions asked about the respondent's use of antimicrobial drugs during the past 12 months, how they were obtained, how they were stored at home, and whether the respondent would consider using drugs without consulting a physician. Details of the drugs used (name of the medicine, symptom or disease coded with International Classification of Primary Care codes [23], and duration of use) and demographic characteristics of the respondents were included. Antibacterial drugs for systemic use (Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical class J01) (24) were included in the analyses. Medicines erroneously reported as antimicrobial drugs were excluded from the analyses. Ethics or data committee approval for the survey was required in Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Romania, and Lithuania and was obtained from the local ethics or data committees of these countries.

Respondents were classified as self-medicating if they reported that they had taken any antimicrobial drugs in the previous 12 months without a prescription from a physician, dentist, or nurse and as prescribed users if antimicrobial drugs had been prescribed. (Physician respondents who reported using nonprescribed drugs were not classified as self-medicating.) Those classified as at-risk for self-medication included those who indicated the intention to self-medicate or store drugs at home. Intended self-medication was defined as answering "yes" or "maybe" to the question, "In general, would you use antimicrobial drugs for yourself without contacting a doctor/nurse/hospital?" Two estimates were used to assess storage of drugs: a maximum estimate, including all respondents who stored antimicrobial drugs, and a conservative estimate that excluded those respondents who stored antimicrobial drugs and had taken the same drugs for a prescribed course in the previous 12 months.

Statistical Analyses

Descriptive statistics were used to estimate the prevalence rates per 1,000 respondents and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for actual self-medication and prescribed use in the previous 12 months and for at-risk self-medication in each country. To assess possible bias from low response rates, we also estimated adjusted prevalence rates. We applied the continuum of the resistance model (25), based on the assumption that late respondents most resemble nonrespondents. Late respondents in our study were those who replied after the reminder. The adjusted prevalence is considered similar to the observed prevalence when it falls in the 95% CI of the observed prevalence.

The effects of individual characteristics and country on antimicrobial drug self-medication were studied with logistic regression analyses by using 3 outcome variables: actual self-medication in the previous 12 months, storage of antimicrobial drugs, and intended self-medication. Countries were grouped together in 3 European regions: northern and western (Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg, United Kingdom, and Ireland), southern (Maim, Italy, Israel, and Spain), and eastern (Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and Lithuania). This grouping was based on patterns of prescribed use of antimicrobial drugs (4), geographic location (26), similarities in healthcare systems, and socioeconomic development. The former socialist countries are referred to as eastern countries. We tested possible interactions between the factors found to be significant and set the significance at p [less than or equal to] 0.01 for interaction terms due to multiple testing. Multivariate logistic regression was also used to study the relationship between intended self-medication, storage, and actual self-medication in the previous 12 months. Data were analyzed by using SPSS (version 11) for Windows (SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL, USA).


A total of 15,548 respondents completed the questionnaires. The mean response rate of the countries was 40% (Table 1).

Prevalence of Self-medication and Prescribed Use

The prevalence rates of antimicrobial drug self-medication (actual and at-risk) and prescribed use are presented separately for countries with response rates [greater than or equal to] 40% and <40% (Table 2). In both of these groups, prevalence rates for actual self-medication were highest in eastern (in particular, Romania and Lithuania), followed by rates in southern (Malta, Spain, and Italy) Europe. The lowest rates were in northern and western (the Netherlands and Sweden) Europe. The rates of at-risk self-medication also tended to be higher in southern and eastern Europe than in northern and western Europe. The adjusted estimates of prevalence rates of self-medication were similar to the observed rates for many of the countries. (2) In Luxembourg, Austria, Israel, Spain, and Lithuania, the adjusted rates of self-medication were consistently higher than the observed rates, indicating that the observed rates may underestimate the prevalence in these countries. By contrast, in Romania, Croatia, and Slovenia, the adjusted rates were lower than the observed rates, indicating that the prevalence rates might be overestimated in our study.

We compared our estimates of antimicrobial drug self-medication with data available from the European Union's Eurobarometer survey in October 2002 (27). We calculated the prevalence of drug use from "leftovers" and drugs "directly from the pharmacy" by using the Eurobarometer data and compared these figures with the same estimates in our study. The estimates were similar with overlapping 95% CIs (data not shown) for countries with both high and low response rates. Our figures differed regarding Spain, for which we found a higher prevalence of self-medication than did the Eurobarometer. Three other studies (4,15,28) indicated an even higher prevalence of self-medication in Spain than in our estimate.

Types of Antimicrobial Drugs Used for Self-medication and Duration of Use

Antimicrobial drugs from all classes were used for self medication in countries with response rates both >40% and <40% (information is shown in the online Appendix Figure, available at no03/05-0992_app-G.htm). Penicillins were the most commonly used, representing 54% of total courses in all countries. Among the countries with response rate >40%, southern and eastern countries used significantly more broad-spectrum penicillin for self-medication than northern and western countries ([chi square], p<0.05). This difference was significant when the analysis was repeated and included all countries ([chi square], p<0.01). Seventeen courses of self-medication with chloramphenicol in Lithuania and 1 course in the Czech Republic were found (data not shown). Ten courses of self-medication with parenteral (injectable) antimicrobial drugs, namely streptomycin or gentamicin, were found in Lithuania (data not shown). The median duration of actual self-medication was 5 days (1 to 100 days) and was significantly longer among the respondents who had chronic diseases (Mann-Whitney U test, p<0.01).

Reasons for Self-medication and Sources

A throat symptom (including red or sore throat), teeth or gum symptoms, and bronchitis were the most common reasons for self-medicating (Figure 1). Eye infection, pain, prostatitis, urogenital infection, headache, and "bad health" were among the other reasons for self-medication (data not shown). In countries with response rates >40%, a throat symptom was also the most common, followed by symptoms of the teeth or gums (Figure 1). Symptoms such as inflammation, skin infection, or diarrhea were reported only in countries with lower response rates. Self-medication for pyelonephritis or pyelitis was reported only in Lithuania; diarrhea was reported in Lithuania (10 patients; 9 used chloramphenicol), Austria (1 patient), and United Kingdom (1 patient).


For intended self-medication as with actual self-medication, a sore throat was the most common symptom, followed by urinary tract infection and toothache (Figure 2). When including only those countries that had response rates >40%, sore throat and urinary tract infection were also the most common symptoms (Figure 2).


In eastern countries, the major source of self-medication was the pharmacy without prescription (309 courses, 68%), followed by leftover medications (120 courses, 26%). By contrast, in southern, northern, and western countries use of leftover medication was more prevalent (46 courses [51%] in southern countries and 35 courses [44%] in northern and western countries), followed by medications obtained directly from the pharmacy (41 courses [46%] in southern countries and 15 courses [19%] in northern and western countries). Among other sources of self-medication were drugs obtained from relatives or friends (52 courses, 8%, in all countries), drugs that were stored after being obtained abroad (10 courses, 2%, in all countries), and drugs obtained over the Internet (3 courses, all in Lithuania).

Effects of Individual Characteristics

The effects of demographic characteristics and chronic disease on actual self-medication, intended self-medication, and storage of antimicrobial drugs are shown in Table 3. Sex and location (urban or rural) had no significant relevance in any of the 3 models. Respondents from southern and eastern countries were more likely to self-medicate (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 6.8, 95% CI 4.8-9.7, and 7.5, 5.7-10.0, respectively) than respondents from northern and western countries. Younger age, higher educational level, and presence of a chronic disease were all significantly associated with self-medication. Similar results were obtained for the relationship between demographic characteristics and storage of antimicrobial drugs, by using the conservative estimate of storage. Younger age, higher educational level, and presence of a chronic disease were also significant predictors of intended self-medication. Presence of a chronic disease increased the risk of intended self-medication, but this effect diminished with increasing age. We repeated all analyses including only those countries that had response rates >40% and obtained similar results. We also repeated these analyses separately for early and late respondents and obtained similar results. (3)

Relation between Intended Self-medication, Storage, and Actual Self-medication

Intended self-medication and storage are both predictors of actual self-medication. A significant relationship was found between intended self-medication and storage. Intended self-medication was a strong predictor for actual self-medication for both respondents who stored drugs (OR 20.9, 95% CI 15.5-28.2) and those who did not (OR 17.8, 95% CI 14.0-22.7). However, for those who did not intend to self-medicate, storage also predicted higher actual self-medication (OR 3.5, 95% CI 2.2-5.6). When the analyses were repeated, including only those countries that had response rates >40%, similar results were obtained. (3)


Self-medication with antimicrobial drugs occurred in all countries that participated in this survey. We included the data from both countries that had high and low response rates. In most of the countries with low response rates (except Spain), no other information is available about self-medication, an often overlooked issue. The second reason for including these countries was that low response was not a problem of this study only, but a general problem of surveys in these countries (29,30). This finding implies that if we want to include information about these countries, the results may be biased. In addition, debate is growing that low response is less problematic in affecting survey estimates than previously assumed (31). Nevertheless, the prevalence rates of self-medication in countries with low response rates should be considered as a rough estimate and interpreted as an indication that the problem exists.

Antimicrobial drug self-medication prevalence varies widely among different European regions, with the highest rates in eastern and southern countries, and the lowest in northern and western. Besides actual self-medication, intended self-medication is clearly relevant: it is a strong predictor of actual self-medication. Intended self-medication has a much higher prevalence than actual self-medication, indicating that the population at-risk is much larger than those who have actually self-medicated in the previous 12 months. Another risk factor for actual self-medication is the availability of drugs at home; opportunity encourages use. Our findings contribute to the growing evidence that estimates of antimicrobial drug use that are based on prescription data only are likely to underestimate actual consumption in both Europe and the United States (11,32). Our European estimates are low in comparison with those from a recent study in the US Hispanic community that showed that [approximately equal to] 20% of the respondents acknowledged getting drugs without a prescription in the United States (32). The only comparable high rates were found in Spain, Romania, and Lithuania, where they ranged from 9% to 18%. However, these figures should be compared with caution because our estimates refer to acquiring drugs without prescription in the last 12 months and the United States study refers to ever acquiring them.

We found that many persons used antimicrobial drug leftovers from previous prescriptions, as was the case in reports from the United States (8-10,12). Drugs could be left over because extra tablets were dispensed (in many countries pharmacies dispense drugs per package, not exact number of tablets) or because of patient noncompliance. Noncompliance may result in 2 inappropriate courses if the patient does not take the amount of medication prescribed and self-medicates later. Earlier findings indicated lower compliance in Italy and Spain than in Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom (33). In Italy, 41% of the interviewees who had taken drugs in the previous 12 months saved part of the course for future use, whereas only 4% of British interviewees reported this behavior (33).

In general, respondents' self-diagnosed disorders were self-limiting and antimicrobial drugs would not have been indicated. In contrast to studies in developing countries, this study identified few cases of self-medication for sexually transmitted diseases (34,35). Only 2 respondents in Lithuania reported self-medication for "gynecological infection" that might have been a sexually transmitted infection.

In this survey, persons who were more prone to self-medicate with antimicrobial drugs were younger persons, more educated, and had chronic diseases. This finding corresponds to those of studies conducted in the United States and Greece, which also found that higher educational status is associated with misuse of drugs (8,17). This relationship cannot be directly attributed to educational status. The interpretation of symptoms is also relevant. Previously, a study in the United States showed that persons with a higher education level tended to believe that antimicrobial drugs were less effective for upper respiratory infections with clear discharge but more effective with discolored discharge (36).

Antimicrobial drug self-medication is a cause for concern because it may contribute to the spread of antimicrobial drug resistance. Self-treatment with a drug that is ineffective against the causative organism or with an inappropriate dosage may increase the risk of selection of resistant organisms that are difficult to eradicate. These resistant organisms may then be transferred into the community. Our findings illustrate that adverse effects are aggravated by self-medication when unnecessary drugs, such as chloramphenicol, tetracycline, and aminoglycosides, are taken. Other problems related to self-medication include drug interactions, masked diagnoses, and superinfection.

Our results are comparable to those of other studies such as the Eurobarometer study (14,19,27). A. study on antimicrobial drug storage among Spanish households showed that 42% of Spanish households had drugs at home, including those currently used (14). This finding is comparable to the prevalence of drugs stored (50%) in our study. In Malta, a higher prevalence (19%) of self-medication was found (19) than in our study, perhaps because the study included self-medication in the previous 2 years, while our study included the previous 12 months. Furthermore, the pattern of the prescribed use of drugs in different regions of Europe in our study is similar to that found in the study by Goossens et al., which was based on information from national databases (4).

A strength of our study is that we used the same methods and comparable samples in all countries, which facilitated an overview of the European situation. The low response rate in some countries is a limitation of our study, however. Although we calculated the prevalence rates adjusted for nonresponse, they are based on the assumption that respondents who replied after the reminder most resemble nonrespondents.

As with all self-reported data, results of this survey have the potential for recall bias, underreporting, or over-reporting. We attached the list of the most commonly used antimicrobial drugs in each country to the questionnaires to reduce recall problems. To discourage underreporting of self-medication, the questions about drug use were formulated in a neutral way in which the source of the drug could be chosen from 6 predefined sources or "other source."

Substantial variation in the prevalence rates of antimicrobial drug self-medication among the European regions suggests that cultural (37) and socioeconomic factors play a role, as do disparities in health care systems such as reimbursement policies, access to health care, and drug dispensing policies. Another factor is the acquisition of antimicrobial drugs from pharmacies without prescription, which occurred most frequently in eastern European countries. Although over-the-counter sale of antimicrobial drugs is illegal in all participating countries, there is clearly a need to enforce the law in some countries.

Antimicrobial drug self-medication is a cause for concern in Europe. Even the lowest prevalence, 1 person per 1,000 respondents, implies that 10,000 persons in a population of 10,000,000 are self-medicating annually. Our study indicates a high prevalence of self-medication in countries that reported high resistance levels (southern and eastern countries). Even in the countries with low actual self-medication, substantial intended self-medication and drug storage occurs. Efforts to reduce inappropriate use of antimicrobial drugs should include the issue of self-medication and should involve prescribers, pharmacists, and the general public. The number of tablets dispensed in pharmacies should be limited, and patients should be instructed to discard their leftover drugs. Large-scale public campaigns, such as those recently launched in the United States, Canada, Belgium, and Australia (38), should include detailed instructions and emphasize the potential risks of using antimicrobial drugs without medical guidance.

This study was funded by a grant from DG/Sanco of the European Commission (SPC2002333), the European Commission Public Health Directorate DG SANCO, and the participating institutions.

Ms Grigoryan is a junior researcher in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen. Her current research interest is self-medication with antimicrobial drugs and its determinants.


(1.) Levy SB. Antibiotic resistance-the problem intensifies. Adv Drug Deliv Rev. 2005;57:1446-50.

(2.) Harbarth S, Samore MH. Antimicrobial resistance determinants and future control. Emerg infect Dis. 2005;11:794-801.

(3.) Livermore DM. Bacterial resistance: origins, epidemiology, and impact. Clin Infect Dis. 2003;36(Suppl 1):S11-23.

(4.) Goossens H, Ferech M, Vander Stichele R, Elseviers M, ESAC Project Group. Outpatient antibiotic use in Europe and association with resistance: a cross-national database study. Lancet. 2005;365:579-87.

(5.) Albrich WC, Monnet DL, Harbarth S. Antibiotic selection pressure and resistance in Streptococcus pneumoniae and Streptococcus pyogenes. Emerg Infect Dis. 2004;10:514-7.

(6.) Thomas JK, Forrest A, Bhavnani SM, Hyatt JM, Cheng A, Ballow CH, et al. Pharmacodynamic evaluation of factors associated with the development of bacterial resistance in acutely ill patients during therapy. Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1998;42:521-7.

(7.) Guillemot D, Carbon C, Balkan B, Geslin P, Lecoeur H, Vauzelle-Kervroedan F, et al. Low dosage and long treatment duration of betalactam: risk factors for carriage of penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae. JAMA. 1998;279:365-70.

(8.) Richman PB, Garra G, Eskin B, Nashed AH, Cody R. Oral antibiotic use without consulting a physician: a survey of ED patients. Am J Emerg Med. 2001;19:57-60.

(9.) Ceaser S, Wurtz R. "Leftover" antimicrobial drugs in the medicine cabinet. Ann Intern Med. 2000;133:74.

(10.) Vanden Eng J, Marcus R, Hadler JL, Imhoff B, Vugia DJ, Cieslak PR, et al. Consumer attitudes and use of antimicrobial drugs. Emerg Infect Dis. 2003;9:1128-35.

(11.) Larson E, Lin SX, Gomez-Duarte C. Antibiotic use in Hispanic households, New York City. Emerg Infect Dis. 2003;9:1096-102.

(12.) McKee MD, Mills L, Mainous AG III. Antibiotic use for the treatment of upper respiratory infections in a diverse community. J Fam Pract. 1999;48:993-6.

(13.) Larson E, Grullon-Figueroa L. Availability of antimicrobial drugs without prescription in New York City. J Urban Health. 2004;81:498-504.

(14.) Orero A, Gonzales J, Prieto J. Antibiotics in Spanish households. Medical and socioeconomic implications. URANO Study Group. [article in Spanish]. Med Clin (Barc). 1997;109:782-5.

(15.) Gonzalez Nunez J, Ripoll Lozano MA, Prieto Prieto J. Self-medication with antibiotics. The URANO Group [article in Spanish]. Med Clin (Barc). 1998;111:182-6.

(16.) Contopoulos-Ioannidis DG, Koliofoti ID, Koutroumpa IC, Gianakakis IA, Ioanidis JP. Pathways for inappropriate dispensing of antimicrobial drugs for rhinosinusitis: a randomized trial. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;33:76-82.

(17.) Mitsi G; Jelastopulu E, Basiaris H, Skoutelis A, Gogos C. Patterns of antibiotic use among adults and parents in the community: a questionnaire-based survey in a Greek urban population. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2005;25:439-43.

(18.) Stratchounski LS, Andreeva IV, Ratchina SA, Galkin DV, Petrotchenkova NA, Demin AA, et al. The inventory of antimicrobial drugs in Russian home medicine cabinets. Clin Infect Dis. 2003;37:498-505.

(19.) Borg MA, Scicluna EA. Over-the-counter acquisition of antimicrobial drugs in the Maltese general population. Inter J Antimicrob Agents. 2002;20:253-7.

(20.) European surveillance of antimicrobial consumption. [cited 2005 Mar 10]. Available from

(21.) European antimicrobial resistance surveillance system. [cited 2005 Mar 10]. Available from

(22.) Sample size for population proportion. [cited 2005 Oct 10]. Available from

(23.) World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) international classification committee. International classification of primary care ICPC-2. New York: Oxford University Press; 1998.

(24.) World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Drug Statistics Methodology. ATC Index with DDDs 2002. Oslo, Norway. The Organization; 2002.

(25.) Kypri K, Stephenson S, Langley J. Assessment of nonresponse bias in an Internet survey of alcohol use. Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2004;28:630-4.

(26.) United Nations Statistics Division. Country and region Codes. [cited 2005 Mar 10]. Available from m49/m49regin.htm

(27.) The health of adults in the European Union. [cited 2005 Mar 10]. Available from ebs/ebs_183.7_en.pdf

(28.) Orero Gonzalez A, Ripoll Lozano MA, Gonzalez Nunez J. Analysis of automedication with antimicrobial drugs in Spain. [article in Spanish] Enferm Infecc Microbiol Clin. 1998;16:328-33.

(29.) O'Neill TW, Marsden D, Matthis C, Raspe H, Silman AJ. Survey response rates: national and regional differences in a European multicentre study of vertebral osteoporosis. J Epidemiol Community Health. 1995;49:87-93.

(30.) Community Trade Mark Survey Survey 2002, Final report, and Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM). [cited 2005 Jan 23]. Available from

(31.) Keeter S, Miller C, Kohut A, Groves RM, Presser S. Consequences of reducing nonresponse in a national telephone survey. Public Opin Q. 2000;64:125-48.

(32.) Mainous AG III, Cheng AY, Garr RC, Tilley BC, Everett C J, McKee MD. Nonprescribed antimicrobial drugs in Latino community, South Carolina. Emerg Infect Dis. 2005; 11:883-8.

(33.) Pechere JC. Patients' interviews and misuse of antimicrobial drugs. Clin Infect Dis. 2001;33(Suppl 3):S170-3.

(34.) Obaseiki-Ebor EE, Akerele JO, Ebea PO. A survey of antibiotic outpatient prescribing and antibiotic self-medication. J Antimicrob Chemother. 1987;20:759-63.

(35.) Henry K. AIDSCAP seeks a private sector solution to the STD self-treatment dilemma. Aidscaptions. 1995;26:9.

(36.) Mainous AG III, Zoorob RJ, Oler MJ, Haynes DM. Patient knowledge of upper respiratory infections: implications for antibiotic expectations and unnecessary utilization. J Fam Pract. 1997;45:75-83.

(37.) Branthwaite A, Pechere JC. Pan-European survey of patients' attitudes to antimicrobial drugs and antibiotics. J Int Med Res. 1996; 24:229.

(38.) Finch RG, Metlay JP, Davey PG, Baker LJ, International Forum on Antibiotic Resistance Colloquium. Educational interventions to improve antibiotic use in the community: report from the International Forum on Antibiotic Resistance (IFAR) Colloquium, 2002. Lancet Infect Dis. 2004;4:44-53.

Address for correspondence to: Larissa Grigoryan, Department of Clinical Pharmacology, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, A. Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, the Netherlands; fax: 31-50-363-2812; email:

(1) A copy of the questionnaire is available from the corresponding author on request.

(2) The adjusted estimates for each country are available from the corresponding author on request.

(3) Results are available from the corresponding author on request.

Larissa Grigoryan, * Flora M. Haaijer-Ruskamp, * Johannes G.M. Burgerhof, * Reli Mechtler, ([dagger]) Reginald Deschepper, ([double dagger]) Arjana Tambic-Andrasevic, ([section]) Retnosari Andrajati, ([paragraph]) Dominique L. Monnet, (#) Robert Cunney, ** Antonella Di Matteo, ([dagger][dagger]) Hana Edelstein, ([double dagger][double dagger]) Rolanda Valinteliene, ([section][section]) Alaa Alkerwi, ([paragraph][paragraph]) Elizabeth A. Scicluna, (##) Pawel Grzesiowski, *** Ana-Claudia Bara, ([dagger][dagger][dagger]) Thomas Tesar, ([double dagger][double dagger][double dagger]) Milan Cizman, ([section][section][section]) Jose Campos, ([paragraph][paragraph][paragraph]) Cecilia Stalsby Lundborg, (###) and Joan Birkin ****

* University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands; ([dagger]) University of Linz, Linz, Austria; ([double dagger]) Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium; ([section]) University Hospital for Infectious Diseases, Zagreb, Croatia; ([paragraph]) Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; (#) Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, Denmark; ** Health Protection Surveillance Centre, Dublin, Ireland; ([dagger][dagger]) Consorzio Mario Negri Sud, Chieti, Italy; ([double dagger][double dagger]) Ha'Emek Medical Center, Afula, Israel; ([section][section]) Institute of Hygiene, Vilnius, Lithuania; ([paragraph][paragraph]) Directorate of Health, Luxembourg, Luxembourg; (##) St Luke's Hospital, G'Mangia, Malta; *** National Institute of Public Health, Warsaw, Poland; ([dagger][dagger][dagger]) Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, Rostock, Germany; ([double dagger][double dagger][double dagger]) Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia; ([section][section][section]) University Medical Centre, Ljubljana, Slovenia; ([paragraph][paragraph][paragraph]) Instituto de Salud Carlos III, Madrid, Spain; (###) Karolinska Institutet, Goteborg, Sweden; and **** Nottingham City Hospital, Nottingham, United Kingdom
Table 1. General characteristics of respondents in each European

 Response No.
Country rate (%) respondents

Northern and western
 The Netherlands 55 1,634
 Sweden 69 704
 Denmark 63 1,881
 Austria 28 442
 Belgium 54 1,734
 Luxemberg 50 675
 United Kingdom ([double dagger]) 23 675
 Ireland 26 793
 Israel 18 467
 Malta 54 541
 Italy 21 213
 Spain 20 204
 Czech Republic 59 1,169
 Slovenia 38 1,143
 Croatia 31 615
 Poland 32 935
 Slovakia 55 546
 Romania 43 430
 Lithuania 25 747

 Mean age (y)
Country [+ or -] SD Female (%)

Northern and western
 The Netherlands 48 [+ or -] 17 58
 Sweden 54 [+ or -] 19 53
 Denmark 48 [+ or -] 17 56
 Austria 49 [+ or -] 16 50
 Belgium 45 [+ or -] 16 55
 Luxemberg 46 [+ or -] 18 51
 United Kingdom ([double dagger]) 50 [+ or -] 10 58
 Ireland 48 [+ or -] 16 59
 Israel 50 [+ or -] 17 61
 Malta 46 [+ or -] 16 55
 Italy 45 [+ or -] 18 61
 Spain 47 [+ or -] 14 47
 Czech Republic 54 [+ or -] 15 36
 Slovenia 48 [+ or -] 17 58
 Croatia 53 [+ or -] 16 55
 Poland 45 [+ or -] 18 60
 Slovakia 41 [+ or -] 16 54
 Romania 50 [+ or -] 18 49
 Lithuania 59 [+ or -] 18 35

 Presence of
 Low education chronic disease
Country level * (%) ([dagger]) (%)

Northern and western
 The Netherlands 30 15
 Sweden 53 14
 Denmark 60 14
 Austria 64 15
 Belgium 32 13
 Luxemberg 49 15
 United Kingdom ([double dagger]) 40 15
 Ireland 53 17
 Israel 19 22
 Malta 60 21
 Italy 37 27
 Spain 31 18
 Czech Republic 45 27
 Slovenia 70 20
 Croatia 10 26
 Poland 42 23
 Slovakia 27 23
 Romania 43 27
 Lithuania 32 39

Country location (%)

Northern and western
 The Netherlands 48
 Sweden 49
 Denmark 49
 Austria 53
 Belgium 50
 Luxemberg 45
 United Kingdom ([double dagger]) 58
 Ireland 47
 Israel 36
 Malta 47
 Italy 51
 Spain 57
 Czech Republic 48
 Slovenia 47
 Croatia 58
 Poland 52
 Slovakia 54
 Romania 43
 Lithuania 54

* Low education level was defined as incomplete primary education,
completed primary education, and lower vocational or general education.

([dagger]) Including any of the following diseases: asthma, chronic
bronchitis, emphysema, human immunodeficiency virus infection, cystic
fibrosis, diabetes, endocarditis, tuberculosis, prostatitis, chronic
urinary tract infection, chronic osteomyelitis, peptic ulcer disease,
chronic pyelonephritis or cancer.

([double dagger]) Reminders were not sent to nonrespondents.

Table 2. Actual use of systemic antimicrobial drugs in the last 12
months and at-risk self-medication in 19 European countries

 Rate per 1,000 respondents (95%
 confidence interval)

 Actual self-
Country (region in country) medication Prescribed use

Countries with response rate
 [greater than or equal to] 40%
 Northern and western
 The Netherlands (Twente) 1 (0.2-4) 152 (134-170)
 Sweden (Vastmanland) 4 (0.9-12) 135 (109-161)
 Denmark (Funen, Aarhus, 7 (4-12) 172 (154-189)
 Copenhagen ([double dagger]))
 Luxemburg (whole country) 9 (3-19) 288 (252-324)
 Belgium (East Flanders, 9 (5-15) 222 (201-242)
 Flemish Brabant)
 Malta (whole country) 56 (38-79) 422 (380-465)
 Czech Republic (Hradec Krlov) 7 (3-13) 253 (228-279)
 Slovakia (Middle Slovakia 42 (27-63) 569 (527-612)
 Romania (Dolj) 198 (160-235) 307 (263-351)
Countries with response rate <40%
 Northern and western
 Austria (Upper Austria) 9 (2-23) 159 (124-195)
 United Kingdom 12 (5-23) 221 (189-254)
 Ireland (Cork) 14 (7-25) 353 (320-386)
 Israel (Northern Israel) 15 (6-31) 330 (287-374)
 Italy (Abruzzo) 62 (33-103) 512 (444-580)
 Spain (autonomous community 152 (103-201) 315 (251-379)
 of Madrid)
 Slovenia (Ljubljana region) 17 (10-26) 293 (266-320)
 Croatia (Zagreb county) 31 (19-48) 439 (399-478)
 Poland (Pomorskie) 33 (23-47) 199 (172-225)
 Lithuania (Klaipeda, Rietavas) 210 (181-239) 275 (243-308)

 Rate per 1,000 respondents (95%
 confidence interval)

 Storage *
 Intended self- (conservative
Country (region in country) medication estimate)

Countries with response rate
 [greater than or equal to] 40%
 Northern and western
 The Netherlands (Twente) 85 (71-101) 10 (6-17)
 Sweden (Vastmanland) 118 (94-143) 14 (7-26)
 Denmark (Funen, Aarhus, 132 (116-147) 42 (33-52)
 Copenhagen ([double dagger]))
 Luxemburg (whole country) 83 (62-107) 90 (69-114)
 Belgium (East Flanders, 80 (67-95) 71 (59-84)
 Flemish Brabant)
 Malta (whole country) 228 (192-264) 156 (125-186)
 Czech Republic (Hradec Krlov) 179 (156-201) 45 (33-58)
 Slovakia (Middle Slovakia 324 (284-365) 192 (159-225)
 Romania (Dolj) 431 (383-478) 200 (162-238)
Countries with response rate <40%
 Northern and western
 Austria (Upper Austria) 73 (49-103) 34 (19-55)
 United Kingdom 166 (137-195) 33 (21-49)
 Ireland (Cork) 150 (125-176) 29 (19-43)
 Israel (Northern Israel) 187 (150-223) 120 (91-149)
 Italy (Abruzzo) 243 (185-301) 379 (314-445)
 Spain (autonomous community 314 (249-380) 260 (200-320)
 of Madrid)
 Slovenia (Ljubljana region) 280 (253-307) 119 (100-137)
 Croatia (Zagreb county) 205 (172-237) 130 (103-156)
 Poland (Pomorskie) 115 (94-136) 69 (53-87)
 Lithuania (Klaipeda, Rietavas) 449 (412-486) 177 (149-204)

 Rate per 1,000 respondents (95%
 confidence interval)

 Storage ([dagger])
Country (region in country) estimate)

Countries with response rate
 [greater than or equal to] 40%
 Northern and western
 The Netherlands (Twente) 36 (28-46)
 Sweden (Vastmanland) 43 (29-60)
 Denmark (Funen, Aarhus, 84 (72-97)
 Copenhagen ([double dagger]))
 Luxemburg (whole country) 132 (106-158)
 Belgium (East Flanders, 123 (107-138)
 Flemish Brabant)
 Malta (whole country) 269 (232-306)
 Czech Republic (Hradec Krlov) 64 (51-80)
 Slovakia (Middle Slovakia 302 (263-340)
 Romania (Dolj) 321 (277-365)
Countries with response rate <40%
 Northern and western 52 (33-77)
 Austria (Upper Austria) 52 (33-77)
 United Kingdom 74 (56-97)
 Ireland (Cork) 100 (80-123)
 Israel (Northern Israel) 236 (197-274)
 Italy (Abruzzo) 569 (502-636)
 Spain (autonomous community 500 (431-569)
 of Madrid)
 Slovenia (Ljubljana region) 183 (160-205)
 Croatia (Zagreb county) 212 (179-244)
 Poland (Pomorskie) 137 (115-160)
 Lithuania (Klaipeda, Rietavas) 333 (299-367)

* Included only those respondents who stored antimicrobial drugs and
had not taken the same antimicrobial drugs for a prescribed course in
the previous 12 months.

([dagger]) Including all respondents who stored antimicrobial drugs.

([double dagger]) Although Copenhagen has population >750,000, both
self-medication and prescribed use of antimicrobial drugs were not
significantly different between the sample of Copenhagen and sample of
the other 2 Danish counties ([chi square] tests).

([section]) The rates for these countries should be interpreted as
first rough estimates.

Table 3. Effects of individual characteristics on actual and at-risk
antimicrobial drug self-medication *

 Adjusted odds ratio
 (95% confidence interval)

Characteristics Actual self-medication

Age 0.985 (0.979-0.992)
Region in Europe ([dagger])
 Northern and western 1 (reference)
 Southern 6.776 (4.752-9.662)
 Eastern 7.529 (5.676-9.985)
Education level
 Low ([double dagger]) 1 (reference)
 High 1.357 (1.095-1.680)
Chronic disease ([section])
 No 1 (reference)
 Any 1.888 (1.497-2.383)
Age x any chronic disease
Exponential (constant) 0.012

 Adjusted odds ratio
 (95% confidence interval)

Characteristics Storage (conservative estimate)

Age 0.977 (0.973-0.982)
Region in Europe ([dagger])
 Northern and western 1
 Southern 5.101 (4.240-6.137)
 Eastern 3.311 (2.868-3.822)
Education level
 Low ([double dagger]) 1
 High 1.690 (1.470-1.943)
Chronic disease ([section])
 No 1
 Any 1.225 (1.038-1.446)
Age x any chronic disease
Exponential (constant) 0.083

 Adjusted odds ratio
 (95% confidence interval)

Characteristics Intended self-medication

Age 0.984 (0.980-0.987)
Region in Europe ([dagger])
 Northern and western 1
 Southern 2.233 (1 .909-2.613)
 Eastern 2.851 (2.577-3.154)
Education level
 Low ([double dagger]) 1
 High 1.233 (1.116-1.361)
Chronic disease ([section])
 No 1
 Any 2.320(1.594-3.378)
Age x any chronic disease 0.989 (0.982-0.996)
Exponential (constant) 0.219

* At-risk self-medication included intended self-medication or storage
of drugs at home.

([dagger]) Northern and western includes Sweden, Denmark, the
Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Luxemburg, United Kingdom, Ireland,
southern includes Israel, Malta, Italy, and Spain; eastern includes
Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, Slovakia, Romania, and

([double dagger]) Low education level was defined as incomplete primary
education, completed primary education, and lower vocational or general

([section]) Including any of the following diseases: asthma, chronic
bronchitis, emphysema, HIV infection, cystic fibrosis, diabetes,
endocarditis, tuberculosis, prostatitis, chronic urinary tract
infection, chronic osteomyelitis, peptic ulcer disease, chronic
pyelonephritis, or cancer.
COPYRIGHT 2006 U.S. National Center for Infectious Diseases
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:RESERACH
Author:Birkin, Joan
Publication:Emerging Infectious Diseases
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Mar 1, 2006
Previous Article:Chemoprophylaxis and malaria death rates.
Next Article:Pneumonic plague cluster, Uganda, 2004.

Related Articles
Use of Antimicrobial Growth Promoters in Food Animals and Enterococcus faecium Resistance to Therapeutic Antimicrobial Drugs in Europe.
Antimicrobial drug prescriptions in ambulatory care settings, United States, 1992-2000. (Research).
Community prescribing and resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae.
International Salmonella Typhimurium DT104 infections, 1992-2001.
Integrating Escherichia coli antimicrobial susceptibility data from multiple surveillance programs.
Nonprescribed antimicrobial drugs in Latino community, South Carolina.
Antimicrobial drug resistance, regulation, and research (1).
Systematic review of antimicrobial drug prescribing in hospitals.
Multidrug-resistant commensal Escherichia coli in children, Peru and Bolivia.
Antimicrobial drugs in the home, United Kingdom.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters