Malin Grape, head of the antibiotics and hygiene unit at the Public Health Agency, tells Swedish Radio News that we are heavily dependent on antibiotics today and that a decline in consumption and sales is positive news in the fight against drug resistance and for improved public health.
"Antibiotics are gradually being perceived as a finite resource due to a growing resistance, and we need to conserve as much of it as possible, so this is very important news," Grape says.
In total, Swedish doctors handed out 1.6 percent fewer prescriptions last year, or 323 prescriptions per 1,000 inhabitants. That is considerably less than in the US, where the same figure is closer to 833 per 1,000.
Prescriptions to children saw the biggest drop last year and went down by 8 percent.
The new figures by the Public Health Agency also show great regional differences in how much antibiotics Swedes consume. In the northern county of Västerbotten, doctors prescribed 30 percent less antibiotics on average than in Stockholm.
Göran Wåström is a district physician in Stockholm but has more than 20 years experience of working in northern Sweden and he is not surprised that the figures are so different.
"I think there are many reasons why, but it is much easier to get to a doctor in Stockholm. People nowadays want to get healthy as soon as possible and many are overconfident in the power of antibiotics," Wåström says.
Malin Grape, at the Public Health Agency, argues that the regional differences is proof that there is an issue of over-prescribing drugs in Sweden that needs to be handled.
"We can't just sit back and relax now that we see the consumption dropping. We need to maintain this development," Grape says.