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How bad is France's addiction to antibiotics?
France is popping open too many antibiotic packets, its national health agency says. Photo: Isouf Sanogo/AFP

How bad is France's addiction to antibiotics?

The Local · 7 Nov 2014, 16:42

Published: 07 Nov 2014 16:42 GMT+01:00

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The French are hooked on antibiotics. At least according to a study carried out by the National Agency for Medical Safety (ANSM).
The agency reports that there has been a worrying increase in antibiotic consumption in France in recent years.
A successful government campaign informing the public of the dangers of frequent antibiotic use did see the usage rate drop significantly between the years 2000 and 2004, but the effect of that campaign has apparently since worn off. 
Here are the stand-out figures from the report:
  • There was an overall decrease in the consumption of antibiotics by 10.7 percent between 2000 and 2013, but the rate has risen again by 5.9 percent since 2010
  • The rate at which the French consume antibiotics is 25 percent higher than in the US, and 30 percent above the European average 

  • The new figures suggest France has no chance of meeting its target to cut the consumption of antibiotics by 25 percent by 2016. It will be a difficult task, according to the head of the study, if there's no "trend reversal" from next year onwards.

  • In 2013 the amount of antibiotics consumed outside of hospitals in France was greater than its level of 2003.

  • 70 percent of antibiotics are prescribed for respiratory infections, 15.5 percent for urinary infections, 9.8 percent for ear infections, and 4.6 percent for influenza and other infections

  • 90 percent of antibiotics are administered and obtained outside hospitals

The ANSM's Philippe Cavalié summed up the problem in France, saying: "There is a very high expectation on the part of patients to exit their doctor's office with a prescription for antibiotics and doctors do not always know how to resist this pressure."

Cavalié said the main problem with popping too many antibiotics is that it increases the risk of bacteria becoming resistant to the drugs. Every year, 25,000 people die in the EU as a result of antibiotic resistance, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

French bacteriology specialist Antoine Andremont told Le Parisien that common illnesses could turn into killers in 20 years’ time if certain strains of bacteria become resistant to antibiotic treatment.

Story continues below…

One of the main concerns for the ANSM is that very few antibiotic molecules have been developed and introduced in recent years, making the issue of resistance all the more problematic.

Earlier this year the WHO called on pharmaceutical companies to increase research into molecules that are more effective against super-resistant bacteria as well as looking at alternative treatment methods.

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