Deregulation of antibacterials is a recurrent topic in the debate on pharmaceutical policy. This article focuses on one aspect of pharmaceutical regulation, namely the requirement of a medical prescription for purchasing antibacterials. However, a strategy of deregulation should not only concern the switch from prescription-only status to nonprescription status for a given drug, but should consider some complementary measures to minimise potentially harmful effects on health and costs. Risk-benefit and economic evaluations, which are possible approaches to assess the convenience of antibacterial deregulation, force the empirical evidence, the assumptions, as well as the value judgements on which the options are evaluated, to be made explicit. We outline the basic traits of an economic-evaluation approach to assess the issues related to the public interest and the feasibility of a deregulation policy. However, the answer cannot be a generic one, but should address the question for each particular country, and for each antibacterial and indication. Given the limitations of existing evidence on that issue, a tentative research agenda is also proposed.
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