Skip to Content

7% of antibiotics in the EU are taken without a prescription

A study published on antimicrobial resistance and the causes of non-prudent use of antibiotics carried out by Nivel (NL) as part of the EU-funded project ARNA (Antimicrobial resistance and the causes of non-prudent use of antibiotics), estimates that 7% of antibiotics taken in the EU are taken without a prescription.

7% of antibiotics in the EU are taken without a prescription

Non-prudent use of antibiotics has several aspects such as over-use because of the prescription of antibiotics for diagnoses where they are not indicated. Moreover, self-medication with antibiotics can be considered as non-prudent use; for example, when it is delivered as over-the-counter without knowing the diagnosis or when a citizen uses leftover antibiotics.

The ARNA project aimed to:

  1. Identify key factors that drive the sales and non-prudent use of antibiotics in human medicine obtained without a prescription
  2. Assess the level of enforcement of the legislation regarding ‘prescription-only’ use of antimicrobial agents in the EU
  3. Document good practices aimed at strengthening more prudent use of antibiotics
  4. Develop policy options for more prudent use of antibiotics

Interventions on a healthcare-system level suggested at country-dialogue meetings included many promoting the use of rapid diagnostics to promote prudent use of antibiotics:

  • Stimulate the use of point-of-care tests and differentiate between different infections
  • Put the test on the shelves of the pharmacists or provide it through the government
  • Increase the availability of rapid bacterial infection tests, stimulate its use and reassure parents of children
  • Give legal character to rapid tests

Read the full report here: [pdf 4MB]

Explore Related Content and Videos


The problem of antibiotic resistance

United Nations Establishes Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance

Antibiotic resistance rising in Europe

Read more now


Diagnosis and Prevention of Clostridium difficile Infection (CDI)