One Health Trust and collaborators analyzed data on four broad-spectrum oral antibiotic sales in 71 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. While sales fell sharply in March 2020, they recovered to near pre-pandemic levels by May 2022. Antibiotics were prescribed to 75 percent of COVID-19 patients despite bacterial coinfection rates averaging less than 10 percent. A 10 percent rise in monthly COVID-19 cases was linked to 0.3 percent higher sales of the studied antibiotics combined per 1,000 individuals. The pandemic’s overall impact on rising aggregate broad-spectrum antibiotic use has been small, perhaps due to fewer non-COVID illnesses resulting from COVID-19 mitigation measures.  Antibiotics should not be used in COVID-19 cases unless necessary to prevent COVID-19 from becoming another influenza-like illness for which antibiotics are routinely and inappropriately prescribed.

Global antibiotic use during the COVID-19 pandemic: analysis of pharmaceutical sales data from 71 countries, 2020–2022’ is published in eClinicalMedicine and is available for download here.