Italian doctors warned to stop prescribing 'excessive' amounts of antibiotics

The Local Italy
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Italian doctors warned to stop prescribing 'excessive' amounts of antibiotics
Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Italy's "excessive and inappropriate prescription of antibiotics" is contributing to antibiotic resistance and affecting patient safety in hospitals, a new OECD report warns.


Italian doctors gave out the second-highest number of antibiotic prescriptions, according to the OECD study released this week.

READ MORE: What can Italy teach the rest of the world about health?

"In 2017, the total volume of antibiotics prescribed in primary care was 28 defined daily doses per thousand patients, compared to an average of 18 across OECD countries," the Health at a Glance 2019 report found.

The only country to prescribe more antibiotics was Greece, the report found. The country prescribing the fewest antibiotics was Estonia, followed by Sweden and Austria.

"Antibiotic resistance affects patient safety in hospitals," the report said.

"Italy has higher than average rates of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs),” it said, with around six percent of all hospitalised patients in Italy contracting “at least one” such infection during their stay.

“HAIs can be deadly,” the report stated, explaining that “antibiotic-resistant bacteria can make HAIs difficult or even impossible to treat,”

“There is a need to implement policies to combat the spread of antimicrobial resistance."

Meanwhile, the report found Italy had relatively low rates of prescriptions for antidepressants, anti-diabetic or anti-hypertensive medications, and cholesterol-lowering drugs.

The report also urged Italy to better prepare its healthcare system for the needs of the country's rapidly ageing population.


The percentage of the Italian population aged 65 or over is now the fifth-highest among OECD countries, making up more than 20 percent of the population, the OECD report said.

By 2050, more than one in eight Italians will be aged over 80, the report said.

Declining fertility rates, combined with longer life expectancy, have left Italy with a significantly older-than-average population. 

Its median age is now 45.9 years compared to the EU's median of 42.8, higher than any other European country except Germany.

Photo: Marco Laporta/AFP



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