Drivers of Irrational Use of Antibiotics in Europe

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Dec 23;16(1):27. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16010027.


The unnecessary use of antibiotics and concomitant rapid growth of antibiotic resistance (ABR) is a widely acknowledged threat to global health, development, and sustainability. While the underlying cause of ABR is undoubtedly the overall volume of antibiotic use in general, irrational antibiotic use, which is influenced by several interrelated factors, is a major contributory factor. Here, we aimed to present and describe selected main drivers of irrational use of antibiotics in Europe. We performed a broad search of the current literature in databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, Cochrane, as well as various institutional websites (World Health Organization, European Observatory, European Commission) to provide a new perspective on selected drivers of irrational antibiotic use in Europe. We also searched for relevant literature using snowballing, i.e., using reference lists of papers to identify additional papers. In this narrative review, we present that major factors among the general public driving antibiotic resistance are lack of public knowledge and awareness, access to antibiotics without prescription and leftover antibiotics, and knowledge attitude and perception of prescribers and dispensers, inadequate medical training, pharmaceutical promotion, lack of rapid and sufficient diagnostic tests, and patient⁻doctor interaction as major factors among healthcare providers. We further discuss initiatives that, if taken and implemented, can have an impact on and improve the current situation in Europe.

Keywords: Europe; antibiotic resistance; antibiotics; irrational use; unnecessary antibiotic use.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / supply & distribution
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Misuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Resistance, Microbial / drug effects
  • Europe
  • Global Health / statistics & numerical data
  • Global Health / trends
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents