Dutch doctors prescribe the least antibiotics

Dutch doctors prescribe the least antibiotics

According to the “Healthcare at a Glance 2017” report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), doctors in the Netherlands write the fewest prescriptions for antibiotics; that is, in comparison to the OECD’s 34 other member states.

Medication expenditure

The “Healthcare at a glance 2017” report compares healthcare in its 35 affiliated countries. Countries include the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States amongst others.

The report illustrates a decrease in medication expenditure by the healthcare system in the Netherlands of almost three percent between 2009 and 2015, whilst the preceding six years showed a slight increase of 0,5 percent.

In the last 12 years, expenditure on medicine has increased in most of the countries assessed in the report. It is apparent that the Netherlands spends less on medication when the figures per citizen are analysed.

The United States spends the most by far, coughing up almost 1.000 euros per citizen, each year. The Netherlands spends 360 euros annually per citizen on medication costs. This is considerably lower than the OECD average of 475 euros. Spending 650 euros per person, Germany also ends up above the OECD average.

The low medication expenditure figures in the Netherlands can be attributed, for a great deal, to the Dutch policy, which obliges doctors and pharmacists to prescribe the cheapest version of a medicine.

As for antibiotics, according to the study, in the Netherlands, prescriptions are written for 10,7 people per 1.000. This is almost half of the average, which is 20,7. The countries authorising more antibiotic prescriptions than the average are Greece, France, Belgium and Italy. Greece issued the most prescriptions per 1.000 people, namely 36,1.

Tackling Dutch medication costs

In the Netherlands, doctors prescribe more cholesterol blockers than in the other OECD member states; however, fewer anti-hypertension medications are taken. Surprisingly, fewer antidepressants are sold over the counter, whilst the number of prescriptions for antidepressants has risen.

With the introduction of new medicines, the costs for healthcare may rise if manufacturers refuse to negotiate reasonable prices. The Council for Public Health and Society in the Netherlands has advised the Dutch Cabinet to be firmer in dealing with pharmaceutical firms and ensure that socially acceptable prices are agreed upon.

If pharmaceutical firms do not comply, measures such as allowing other firms or pharmacies to produce the medications, or permitting patients to order cheaper medicines online from abroad with a doctor’s prescription have been recommended.


Mina Solanki


Mina Solanki

Completed her Master's degree at the University of Groningen and worked as a translator before joining IamExpat. She loves to read and has a particular interest in Greek mythology. In...

Read more



Leave a comment