Canadians receiving more antibiotics than many other OECD residents

Antibiotics are prescribed more frequently in Canada than in many other countries of the OECD — and many of those medications are offered to patients unnecessarily.

The new finding comes from a study by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) that compared health data among the 34 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The OECD includes many of the countries of Europe, along with Australia, the U.S. and more.

The study found that Canadian doctors are prescribing 33 per cent more antibiotics than clinicians in many other countries.

In 2015, more than 25 million courses of antibiotics were prescribed in Canada — the equivalent of almost one prescription for every adult Canadian between the ages of 20 and 69. As well, every day, approximately 20.8 out of 1,000 Canadians are taking antibiotics.

While that’s far fewer than the 36 per 1,000 taken per day in Greece, it’s twice the amount prescribed in the Netherlands. Canada is the fourth largest antibiotic dispenser among its closest OECD peers.

The daily doses per 1,000 population per day for these countries in descending order:

  • France, 30
  • New Zealand, 26
  • Australia, 23
  • Canada, 21
  • United Kingdom, 20
  • Norway, 16
  • Germany, 14
  • Sweden, 12
  • Netherlands, 10

The study also found that in all OECD countries, three out of every five antibiotic prescriptions were for medical complaints that can’t be alleviated by antibiotics, such as common colds, sore throats, and coughing.

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, according to the World Health Organization, and overused and misuse are thought to worsen the problem.

Dr. Wendy Levinson, with the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign led by health care providers to engage physicians in conversations about unnecessary tests and treatments, expressed disappointment with the findings.

“This is a very concerning issue, one that affects not only Canadians, but people worldwide. Clearly, Canada has not been the most responsible steward of the weakening global antibiotics supply,” she said in a statement.

Levinson noted her group has been with working with doctors in family medicine, nursing, and hospitals to help clarify when antibiotics should and should not be used. She says it’s clear there’s still “a lot of work ahead for all of us.”

Canadians perform well in lifestyle but wait too long for care
The CIHI report also found that, while Canada performs well on most health and lifestyle factors compared to other OECD countries, we could make some improvements.

Men in Canada are 35 per cent less likely to smoke than men in other OECD countries. Adult Canadians are also half as likely to die from stroke as adults in other OECD countries.

But obesity is more of a problem in Canada than it is in other OECD countries. Close to 20 per cent of Canadian adults have a self-reported body mass index (BMI) higher than 30. That’s higher than the OECD average of 16.5 per cent. Only 9.8 per cent of Italian adults report a BMI over 30, while only 2.8 per cent of South Koreans are obese.

Access to care is also a problem in Canada. The study found 57 per cent of Canadians have had to wait more than a month to see a specialist, significantly higher than the 42 per cent average in other countries. Only 26.9 per cent of Americans have to wait four weeks or more to see a specialist, while in Belgium, only 20.1 per cent have had to wait that long.

Canadians are also much more likely than residents of other OECD countries to report difficulty finding medical care in the evenings, on weekends or holidays without going to a hospital emergency department.
By Angela MulhollandStaff writer.
Photo and original article at

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