European surveillance of antimicrobial consumption (ESAC): data collection performance and methodological approach

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2004 Oct;58(4):419-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2125.2004.02164.x.


Background: Europe is a continent with strong public healthcare systems, but diverging antibiotic policies and resistance patterns.

Aims: To describe the performance and methodological approach in a retrospective data collection effort (1997-2001), through an international network of surveillance systems, aiming to collect publicly available, comparable and reliable data on antibiotic use in Europe.

Methods: A central multidisciplinary management team co-ordinated a network of national representatives, liasing with national data providers and bodies responsible for antibiotic policy. The data collected were screened for bias, using a checklist. We focused on detection bias in sample and census data; errors in assigning medicinal product packages to the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification (ATC); errors in calculations of defined daily doses (DDD) per package; bias by over-the-counter sales and parallel trade; and bias in ambulatory care (AC)/hospital care (HC) mix. Datasets were corrected after national feedback, and classified as valid; valid but with minor bias; not valid.

Results: Of the 31 participating countries, 21 countries delivered AC data suitable for cross-national comparison (14 for all 5 years). Of these, 17 countries provided data on a quarterly basis for at least 1 year. For HC, 14 countries were able to deliver valid data (nine for all 5 years). A valid estimate of the total exposure of national populations to human antibiotic consumption could be made in 17 countries.

Conclusion: In cross-national comparisons of antibiotic consumption in Europe, methodological rigour in correcting for various sources of bias and checking the validity of ATC/DDD assignment is needed.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Data Collection / methods*
  • Europe
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents