Objectives: To assess the total systemic antiviral use in Europe and to identify the antiviral substances most commonly used.
Methods: Within the European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (ESAC; www.esac.ua.ac.be), using the anatomical therapeutic chemical (ATC) classification and defined daily dose (DDD) measurement unit, data on total (out- and inpatient) systemic antiviral use (ATC J05), aggregated at the level of the active substance, were collected for 2008, and use was expressed in DDD (WHO ATC/DDD, version 2010) per 1000 inhabitants per day (DID). Antiviral substances were grouped according to their main indication.
Results: In Europe, 12 countries (Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Russia, Slovenia and Sweden) provided total (out- and inpatient) data and 4 countries (Austria, the Netherlands, Portugal and Norway) provided outpatient data only. Total systemic antiviral use varied by a factor of 10.95 between the country with the highest (3.53 DID in France) and the country with the lowest (0.32 DID in Croatia) use. HIV/AIDS antivirals represented more than 50% of the total antiviral use in most countries. The amount and spectrum of antivirals used varied greatly between countries.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrated a wide variation of total systemic antiviral use in several European countries, as striking as that of outpatient systemic antibiotic, antimycotic and antifungal use. The variation is mainly determined by the use of HIV/AIDS antivirals. These observations should stimulate further analysis to understand the variation of specific antiviral substances. The ESAC data facilitate auditing of antiviral prescriptions and evaluation of the implementation of guidelines and public health policies.