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Toolbox  –  Measure

Consumption of antibiotics

Knowledge about quantity of antibiotic consumption in both humans and animals is key to guide interventions and for understanding the scale of the problem.

Consumption can be measured at several levels – national, regional, community, farm/household or prescriber/provider level. Antibiotic consumption may be measured as the quantity of antibiotics sold, prescribed, dispensed, or consumed. Data can vary between settings and it is important to consider the local disease prevalence, susceptibility patterns, antibiotic prescribing practices and over the counter availability when reviewing data. Comparisons with similar settings can help to give context.

The appropriate means of collecting data will depend on the setting. The use of number of prescriptions or defined daily doses (DDDs) using data from existing databases may be more feasible than to measure the overall antibiotic consumption at the national level. In food animals however, it is difficult to derive DDDs across species as antibiotics may be used preventatively or as growth promoter. For information on data collection at the national level, see POLICY: Elements of a national action plan – Monitor antibiotic use.

Why measure antibiotic consumption?

Reliable data on sales, number of prescriptions and utilisation of antibiotics can assist in development of guidelines or when planning and evaluating efforts to improve use of antibiotics and limit the spread of resistance. Consumption data also provide the opportunity to compare consumption between different settings, for example between hospitals, between farms or between regions or countries. This section gives an overview of where data on antibiotic consumption can be obtained and ways to measure consumption in both human and food animal settings.

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