There is a lack of data on antibiotic utilization in most European countries. In this study, information about the number of antibiotic prescriptions was obtained for Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK from the Institute for Medical Statistics Health Global Services in the UK. For Denmark and Sweden the information was obtained from the Danish Medicines Agency (Laegemiddelstyrelsen) and the National Corporation of Swedish Pharmacies (Apoteket AB), respectively. Between 1994 and 1997 the number of prescriptions per 1,000 inhabitants increased in France and Greece whilst Portugal, Spain and Sweden reported a decrease. In 1997, Greece (1,350), Spain (1,320) and Belgium (1,070) had the highest numbers of antibiotic prescriptions per 1,000 inhabitants in the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical classification system for drugs group J01 while The Netherlands (390), Sweden (460) and Austria (480) had the lowest. The most common antibiotic drug was extended-spectrum penicillin in 6/13 countries, macrolides in Austria, Finland, Germany and Italy, phenoxymethylpenicillin in Denmark and Sweden and cephalosporins in Greece. The variation in the number of antibiotic prescriptions per 1,000 inhabitants between the 13 European countries was substantial in terms of both total use and use of different antibiotics.