Background: The World Health Organization Essential Medicines List (WHO-EML) includes ‘access’ antibiotics, judged essential to treat common infections. The European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Study Group for Antimicrobial Stewardship defined a list of ‘forgotten’ antibiotics, some old and often off-patent antibiotics, which have particular value for specific indications. Objective: To investigate which WHO-EML ‘access’ and ‘forgotten’ antibiotics are approved at national level in a sample of low- to middle-income countries (LMICs). Methods: The Scientific Committee used a consensus procedure to select 26 WHO-EML ‘access’ and 15 ‘forgotten’ antibiotics. Paediatric formulations were explored for 14 antibiotics. An internet-based questionnaire was circulated to 40 LMIC representatives. Antibiotics were defined as approved if an official drug regulatory agency and/or the national ministry of health licensed their use, making them, at least theoretically, available on the market. Results: Twenty-eight LMICs (11 in Africa, 11 in Asia and six in America) were surveyed. Nine WHO-EML ‘access’ antibiotics (amoxicillin, ampicillin, benzylpenicillin, ceftriaxone, clarithromycin, ciprofloxacin, doxycycline, gentamicin and metronidazole) were approved in all countries, and all 26 ‘access’ antibiotics were approved in more than two-thirds of countries. Among the 15 ‘forgotten’ antibiotics, only one was approved in more than two-thirds of countries. The median number of approved antibiotics per country was 30 (interquartile range 23–35). Six of 14 paediatric formulations (amoxicillin, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, oral antistaphylococcal penicillin, cotrimoxazole, erythromycin and metronidazole) were approved in more than two-thirds of countries. Conclusions: WHO-EML ‘access’ antibiotics and the most frequently used formulations for paediatrics were approved in the vast majority of the 28 surveyed LMICs. This was not the case for many of the ‘forgotten’ antibiotics, despite their important role, particularly in areas with high prevalence of multi-drug-resistant bacteria.
- Antibiotic access
- Antibiotic stewardship
- Low- and middle-income countries