The myth about Dutch doctors being unwilling to prescribe antibiotics may be true after all. According to a new survey by the OECD, the Netherlands has the lowest rate of prescribing antibiotics within the 35-country block.
The report, entitled Health at a Glance, shows that just 10.7 people in 1,000 are prescribed antibiotics in the Netherlands at any one time. This is around half the OECD rate of 20.6 and well below league leader Greece, on 36. France, with just under 30 prescriptions per 1,000 people and Belgium with 29 complete the top three.
The report also shows Netherlands has spent less on medicines in the last few years than many other countries, with spending down by almost 3% between 2009 and 2015, following a 0.5% rise in the preceding six years. In most other countries, spending on medicines has risen over the past 12 years.
The national drugs bill amounts to some €360 per citizen per year, well below the EU average of €475. Top of the list is the US, where the drugs bill is almost €1,000 per person per year.
The research also shows Dutch patients take slightly fewer medicines to reduce blood pressure than in other OECD countries, but Dutch doctors prescribe a lot more cholesterol blockers. Fewer anti-depressants are sold in the Netherlands, although the number of prescriptions has increased.
Last week, a government advisory body said the state should take unorthodox measures if pharmaceutical firms are not prepared to ask a ‘socially acceptable price for their products in negotiations’.
The Council for Health and Society said in a new report that if pharmaceutical firms don’t cut their prices, ‘the authorities will have to make use of the options that national and international regulations offer for making the medicine available for patients.’
These include allowing individual pharmacies to make the drugs themselves, allowing patients to order medicines themselves via the internet on a doctor’s prescription and giving other firms licences to produce the drugs.