Increasing use of antibiotics and the spread of resistant pneumococcal clones in the early 1990s alarmed the medical profession and medical authorities in Sweden. Strama (Swedish Strategic Programme for the Rational Use of Antimicrobial Agents and Surveillance of Resistance) was therefore started in 1994 to provide surveillance of antibiotic use and resistance, and to implement the rational use of antibiotics and development of new knowledge. Between 1995 and 2004, antibiotic use for outpatients decreased from 15.7 to 12.6 defined daily doses per 1000 inhabitants per day and from 536 to 410 prescriptions per 1000 inhabitants per year. The reduction was most prominent in children aged 5-14 years (52%) and for macrolides (65%). During this period, the number of hospital admissions for acute mastoiditis, rhinosinusitis, and quinsy (peritonsillar abscess) was stable or declining. Although the epidemic spread in southern Sweden of penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae was curbed, the national frequency increased from 4% to 6%. Resistance remained low in most other bacterial species during this period. This multidisciplinary, coordinated programme has contributed to the reduction of antibiotic use without measurable negative consequences. However, antibiotic resistance in several bacterial species is slowly increasing, which has led to calls for continued sustained efforts to preserve the effectiveness of available antibiotics.