Antibiotics consumption in Belgium remains very high. A study by the Socialist Health Insurance Mutual (SHIM), published on Monday, shows that young GPs are, however, prescribing up to 30% less antibiotics than their older colleagues. Such decisions are made after taking account of a patient’s condition.
The Belgians are the third largest consumers of antibiotics. Among countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), only the Greeks and French consume more.
According to the SHIM, more than 40% of affiliated members have received a minimum of one prescription for antibiotics during the year 2015-2016. Moreover, a quarter of these members still believe that antibiotics are an efficient way to treat viruses. One in eight requested that their doctor prescribe this type of medicine, and in 85% of cases the doctor responded favourably.
The SHIM stresses, “The intensive use of antibiotics is one of the main causes for the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics, a genuine challenge to public health.” The organisation stresses that each year more than 2,600 deaths are likely to be attributable to bacterial infections resistant to these drugs in Belgium.
However, according to the study, young GPs prescribe up to 30% less antibiotics than their older colleagues. Women GPs are also more cautious in this regard.
So as to reduce the use of antibiotics, the SHIM is formulating several recommendations. It is emphasizing the importance of awareness-raising and advocates a preventive vaccination against influenza and pneumococcus (a bacterium which causes pneumonia and certain types of meningitis). It also insists on support for GPs in this regard and proposes making GPs financially responsible for prescribing antibiotics.