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Economic losses

Antibiotic resistance is costly, both for the individual and for society.

Globally, the rising rates of resistant infections, even in the best of hospitals, are pushing up costs of treatment, leads to difficulty in treating infections and worse outcomes for the patients. Providing treatment becomes more complicated and requires increased knowledge among health care personnel, and less evaluated methods and treatments may have to be used. As prolonged illness and premature death take their toll, families may experience economic losses due to reduced incomes. Also, inappropriate use of antibiotics, such as taking antibiotics for a cold, means unnecessary out of pocket spending for a drug that is not needed. This money could instead be spent on relevant medicines or education.

With an increased proportion of the population suffering from prolonged illness, goals for health and development become even more difficult to achieve. Increased illness coupled with limited options for treatment further strains low-income settings already struggling with low resources. In low and middle-income countries where the burden of infectious diseases is higher and data scarcer, studies show that the failure of first line antibiotics has resulted in increased mortality and multiplied costs.

Antibiotic resistant infections also affect animals, and the increasing rates of resistance also means that it becomes more difficult to treat such infections. Death to livestock can further damage the finances of both individual citizens and society.

Economic burden data of antibiotic resistance

Resistance has a significant impact on cost of treatments. It is estimated that the median increased cost to treat a resistant bacterial infection is around 700 US dollars. This corresponds to more than a year’s wages of a rural worker in India. Novel treatments for multidrug-resistant infections can cost up to tens of thousands of US dollars, which ultimately make the medicines unreachable for many. There is a lack of data of data on the economic burden of antibiotic resistance, but studies from EU, US and Thailand estimates that it already costs society many billion US dollars every year:

  • Thailand: ~85-200 million US Dollars direct, and more than 1.3 billion indirect.
  • The United States: Up to 20 billion US Dollars direct, and up to 35 billion indirect.
  • European union: ~1.5 billion Euros.

Selected Resources

Resource Description
Drug Resistant Infections: A Threat to Our Economic Future Infographic from the World Bank highlighting the economic consequences of antimicrobial resistance.
When the Drugs Don’t Work – Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem (PDF 4,1MB) Report from ReAct describing the consequences of resistance for sustainable development. Pages 11-22 describes the effects on poverty and economic growth in more detail.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - CDC. Antibiotic resistance threats in the United States, 2013 [Internet]. CDC; 2013 [cited 2015 Jan 9]. Available from:
World Bank. Drug-Resistant Infections: A Threat to Our Economic Future [Internet]. Washington (DC), U.S.A.; 2017. Available from:
ReAct - Action on antibiotic resistance. When the Drugs Don’t Work - Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem [Internet]. 2019. Available from:
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control - ECDC, European Medicines Agency - EMEA. The bacterial challenge: time to react. A call to narrow the gap between multidrug-resistant bacteria in the EU and development of new antibacterial agents [Internet]. Luxembourg: EUR-OP; 2009. Available from:
Cecchini M, Langer J, Slawomirski L. Antimicrobial Resistance in G7 countries and beyond: Economic Issues, Policies  and Options for Action [Internet]. 2015. Available from:
Chandy SJ, Naik GS, Balaji V, Jeyaseelan V, Thomas K, Lundborg CS. High cost burden and health consequences of antibiotic resistance: the price to pay. J Infect Dev Ctries. 2014 Sep;8(9):1096–102.
de Kraker MEA, Wolkewitz M, Davey PG, Koller W, Berger J, Nagler J, et al. Burden of antimicrobial resistance in European hospitals: excess mortality and length of hospital stay associated with bloodstream infections due to Escherichia coli resistant to third-generation cephalosporins. J Antimicrob Chemother [Internet]. 2011 Feb;66(2):398–407. Available from:
Grundmann H, Klugman KP, Walsh T, Ramon-Pardo P, Sigauque B, Khan W, et al. A framework for global surveillance of antibiotic resistance. Drug Resist Updat [Internet]. 2011 Apr;14(2):79–87. Available from:
Phumart P, Phodha T, Thamlikitkul V, Riewpaiboon A, Prakongsai P, Limwattananon S. Health and Economic Impacts of Antimicrobial Resistant Infections in Thailand : A Preliminary Study. Journal of Health Systems Research [Internet]. 2012 Sep;6(3):352–60. Available from: