A Finnish study: Safeguarding efficient antibacterial therapy calls for quick measures

© GettyImages/gorodenkoff

Two recent studies (Pyörälä, et al. 2022, Parviainen, et al. 2019) studied the consumption of antibiotics in outpatient care among the entire Finnish population during nearly a decade. The studies used information about the purchase of medicine reimbursable through Kela’s health insurance and the costs of medicine reimbursement. 

The study results show that Finland has succeeded in reducing both the total consumption of antibiotics and the consumption of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Despite the good results, other research data shows that, during the same time period, extended spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) producing E. coli has become more prevalent both in Finland and elsewhere around the world. 

According to the studies, the role of gram-negative intestinal bacteria as a threat to life has become very significant on a global scale. In 2022, the joint report published by the European Medicines Agency estimates that antimicrobial resistance has become a silent pandemic.

The Finnish study results have attracted international attention. A large part of the world is still working to reduce the total consumption of antibiotics and broad-spectrum antibiotics. The study results show, however, that prudent use of antibiotics is not enough to control antimicrobial resistance. Other means are also needed quickly. 

New treatment methods for infections are needed quickly

To avoid the lack of antibiotics and safeguard modern health care, we quickly need efficient anti-bacterial antibiotics with a new mechanism of action and new treatment methods for infectious diseases.

In addition, the old narrow-spectrum antibiotics that are effective against certain bacteria, such as penicillin, as well as narrow-spectrum drugs for urinary tract infection must be kept on the market.
“Without an extensive set of means and global cooperation, the availability of antibiotics can become a crisis in the next few years. Increase of antimicrobial resistance would bring our health care back to the time when even common infections could once again be fatal”, says Eija Pelkonen, Fimea’s Director-General.

Drug development requires financial investment from society

In their joint report, European Medicines Agency (EMA), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) take a stand on the threat of antibiotic resistance and emphasise that strong international political will and financial commitment by various actors in society are needed to control the situation and gain new methods of treatment. 
Academic research requires financing, and the pharmaceutical industry requires financial incentives to continue the development of antibiotics to finally introduce new effective treatments for bacterial infections on the market after a wait of several years.

Fimea’s experts on human and veterinary products belong to the national expert group of antimicrobial resistance control (MTKA). The expert group has published an action plan on antimicrobial resistance for 2017–2021 and is currently updating the plan.

Read more about the studies

Pyörälä E, Sepponen K, Lauhio A, Saastamoinen L. Outpatient Antibiotic Use and Costs in Adults: A Nationwide Register-Based Study in Finland 2008–2019. Antibiotics 2022. Published on 22 October 2022.  

Parviainen S, Saastamoinen L, Lauhio A, Sepponen K. Outpatient antibacterial use and costs in children and adolescents: a nationwide register-based study in Finland, 2008–16. Journal of antimicrobial chemotherapy 2019. Published on 8 May 2019.

Read more about antimicrobial resistance

Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators. Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis. The Lancet. Published on 19 January 2022.

Lauhio A. Uhkana pula tehokkaista bakteeriantibiooteista. Suomen lääkärilehti. Published on 6 May 2022.

Antibioottiresistenssi. Sic! 4/2020. Published on 6 November 2020.
Joint report by ECDC, EFSA, EMA, and OECD, 7 March 2022, Antimicrobial Resistance in the EU/EEA – A One Health Response.