'Obsolete' penicillin poses EU-wide risk

Hospital-acquired infections pose major health threat across Europe
Hospital-acquired infections pose major health threat across Europe

By Alex Stevenson

EU officials are due to address penicillin's nearing obsolescence, which a report published today warns poses a "potential health crisis".

The London School of Economics' research for the Swedish government, which holds the EU presidency, calls for a coordinated strategy of major reforms across Europe.

It wants to see risk-sharing finance facilities and advanced market commitments to encourage research and development of new antibiotics.


Penicillin is becoming obsolete in France, Spain and Romania because of over-prescription.

Hospital-acquired infections are a problem across the continent and 175,000 patients die from them every year.

"The development of penicillin and other antibiotics in the mid-20th century prompted public health leaders to declare that the end of infectious diseases was approaching. But the rise of MRSA and other resistant infections is having a devastating effect, with increased spread of disease and risk of mortality, as well as longer hospital stays and higher treatment costs,"

Elias Mossialos of the LSE said declarations following the advent of penicillin in the mid-20th century that the end of infectious diseases was approaching had been proven premature.

"This is one of the most pressing public health issues in the developed world, yet very little is being done about it," he said.

"Governments must take immediate action to preserve the effective life of existing antibiotics and strengthen incentives for the research and development of new antibiotics."

The Department of Health said the report would be considered in detail ahead of an international conference on the issue taking place in Stockholm today.

"UK experts have contributed to the report and will be participating in the conference," a spokesman said.

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