Antibiotic use in Finland declines, as bacteria resistance grows

On average 17 antibiotic drugs are used daily in Finland for every 1000 inhabitants - about the same as other Nordic countries & slightly less than the rest of Europe. 

File picture of items in a pharmacy / Credit: iStock

The use of antibiotics in Finland continues to decline, while the number of bacteria resistant to antibiotics grows.

That’s the findings of the National institute for Health and Welfare THL which says the consumption of antibiotics has dropped an average of 5% per year since 2011 both in outpatient care and in hospitals.

In the rest of Europe, by comparison, the use of antibiotics has remained at the same level for the past ten years.

Last year an average of 17 antibiotic drugs were used daily in Finland for every 1000 inhabitants – about the same as other Nordic countries and slightly less than the rest of Europe.

“The consumption of antibiotic drugs is monitored to identify problem areas and identify actions to reduce consumption” says Emmi Sarvikivi from THL.

Monitoring antibiotic consumption is an important part of the fight against antibiotic resistance. The monitoring is based on data from the drug sales records, and collated at a European level from 28 countries.

Previous studies have found that antibiotic courses are often prolonged, especially when they’re used to prevent infections.

“In order to reduce the consumption of out-of-hospital antibiotic drugs, it is important that antibiotic treatment guidelines and recommendations are kept up to date and that doctors know where to find them” Sarvikivi explains.

File image of someone who is sick & taking medicine / Credit: iStock

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics rising

THL’s latest data shows that bacteria resistant to antibiotics are becoming more common in Finland.

However, there are significantly lower levels of multidrug-resistant bacteria in Finland than the European average.

But one strain in particular is causing concern to Finnish healthcare professionals.

The number vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) was significantly higher in 2018 than the previous year. VRE typically causes infections in patients with impaired defences.

“At the moment we do not know the reason why VRE is becoming more common in Europe” says THL’s Jari Jalava.

“The fight against antimicrobial resistance has been raised in political debate in Europe in recent years, with countries focusing on prevention, use of antibiotics and monitoring of resistance. However, the worsening situation indicates that further efforts are needed” he adds.