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Open Access Research article

Pharmacy sales data versus ward stock accounting for the surveillance of broad-spectrum antibiotic use in hospitals

Jon B Haug1*, Randi Myhr2 and Åsmund Reikvam3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Infectious Diseases, Oslo University Hospital Aker, Trondheimsveien 235, NO-0514 Oslo, Norway

2 Regional medicines information and pharmacovigilance centre (RELIS), Oslo University Hospital Ullevål, Kirkeveien 166, NO-0407 Oslo, Norway

3 Institute of Pharmacology, Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Sognsvannsveien 20, NO-0424 Oslo, Norway

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BMC Medical Research Methodology 2011, 11:166  doi:10.1186/1471-2288-11-166

Published: 13 December 2011



Antibiotic consumption in hospitals is commonly measured using the accumulated amount of drugs delivered from the pharmacy to ward held stocks. The reliability of this method, particularly the impact of the length of the registration periods, has not been evaluated and such evaluation was aim of the study.


During 26 weeks, we performed a weekly ward stock count of use of broad-spectrum antibiotics - that is second- and third-generation cephalosporins, carbapenems, and quinolones - in five hospital wards and compared the data with corresponding pharmacy sales figures during the same period. Defined daily doses (DDDs) for antibiotics were used as measurement units (WHO ATC/DDD classification). Consumption figures obtained with the two methods for different registration intervals were compared by use of intraclass correlation analysis and Bland-Altman statistics.


Broad-spectrum antibiotics accounted for a quarter to one-fifth of all systemic antibiotics (ATC group J01) used in the hospital and varied between wards, from 12.8 DDDs per 100 bed days in a urological ward to 24.5 DDDs in a pulmonary diseases ward. For the entire study period of 26 weeks, the pharmacy and ward defined daily doses figures for all broad-spectrum antibiotics differed only by 0.2%; however, for single wards deviations varied from -4.3% to 6.9%. The intraclass correlation coefficient, pharmacy versus ward data, increased from 0.78 to 0.94 for parenteral broad-spectrum antibiotics with increasing registration periods (1-4 weeks), whereas the corresponding figures for oral broad-spectrum antibiotics (ciprofloxacin) were from 0.46 to 0.74. For all broad-spectrum antibiotics and for parenteral antibiotics, limits of agreement between the two methods showed, according to Bland-Altman statistics, a deviation of ± 5% or less from average mean DDDs at 3- and 4-weeks registration intervals. Corresponding deviation for oral antibiotics was ± 21% at a 4-weeks interval.


There is a need for caution in interpreting pharmacy sales data aggregated over short registration intervals, especially so for oral formulations. Even a one-month registration period may be too short.