Despite a drop during the coronavirus pandemic, Greece still leads all EU member states in antibiotic consumption outside of hospitals, according to doctors.
Excessive consumption of antibiotics risks making viruses more resistant. This has been repeated by doctors for decades. But there’s more: the current generation of antibiotics, developed decades ago, are rapidly approaching the end of their usefulness, and deaths from resistant strains of viruses are expected to increase nearly eightfold if the development of new drugs continues at a snail’s pace.
In 2020, the consumption of antibiotics outside of hospitals in Greece was 26.4 defined daily doses (DDD) per 1000 inhabitants, a significant drop from 32.4 DDD in 2000, but still nearly double the average of the European Union of 15 DDD.
Stathis Skliros, a general practitioner and head of Nemea Primary Health Center in the Corinth regional unit, says the drop was expected because, due to pandemic restrictions, there have been fewer visits to primary care doctors.
But patients also tend to self-medicate, often saving antibiotics beyond their shelf life. About 30% of Greek patients use leftover antibiotics from previous treatments on their own and without turning to doctors for advice, Skliros says.
In the EU, 33,000 people die each year from resistant viral strains and 1.3 million worldwide. But resistant strains will continue to proliferate as the current generation of antibiotics, developed mostly from 1930 to 1970, continue to be used, Skliros says. And pharmaceutical companies are reluctant to develop new drugs because research is expensive. Since 2017, only eight new antibiotics have been approved, of which only two represent a new “scaffold,” or a stable configuration of two or more proteins. As a result, deaths from resistant viruses are expected to exceed 10 million per year by 2050.