Overuse of antibiotics, particularly in agriculture, is a key driver of antibiotic resistant bugs. Antibiotic resistant super bugs claim an estimated 25,000 lives across the EU every year. In Switzerland 270 people died from antibiotic resistant bugs in 2015.
The main causes of antibiotic resistance are: over-prescribing, patients not taking antibiotics as prescribed, poor hygiene and unnecessary use in agriculture, another argument that could be used by non-meat eaters to justify their eating habits.
In 2015, Switzerland’s government launched a campaign to reduce the problem. By 2017, the amount of antibiotics used in Swiss agriculture had halved, and their use by patients was down substantially to 29 prescriptions per 1,000 consultations, far below the average of 34 to 40 recorded between 2006 and 2013.
Following on from this success the government has launched a new campaign, with the slogan: antibiotics when needed as prescribed.
Antibiotic use varies widely, even across Switzerland where French- and Italian-speaking regions consume more per capita than in German-speaking Switzerland.
A recent global study found that 62% of antibiotics supplied globally were provided without a prescription, despite only one country (Thailand) legally allowing the practice. Antibiotics without a prescription were most commonly supplied for urinary tract infections.
One of key solutions to the problem is rapid lab tests. If patients could quickly establish whether they really needed antibiotics, the incidence of unnecessary use could fall dramatically.