Abstract Background In the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, high quantities of products containing antimicrobial are used as prophylactic and curative treatments in small-scale chicken flocks. A large number of these contain antimicrobial active ingredients (AAIs) considered of ‘critical importance’ for human medicine according to the World Health Organization (WHO). However, little is known about the retail prices of these products and variables associated with the expense on antimicrobials at farm level. Therefore, the aims of the study were: (1) to investigate the retail price of antimicrobials with regards to WHO importance criteria; and (2) to quantify the antimicrobial expense incurred in raising chicken flocks. We investigated 102 randomly-selected small-scale farms raising meat chickens (100–2000 per flock cycle) in two districts in Dong Thap (Mekong Delta) over 203 flock production cycles raised in these farms. Farmers were asked to record the retail prices and amounts of antimicrobial used. Results A total of 214 different antimicrobial-containing products were identified. These contained 37 different AAIs belonging to 13 classes. Over half (60.3%) products contained 1 highest priority, critically important AAI, and 38.8% 1 high priority, critically important AAI. The average (farm-adjusted) retail price of a daily dose administered to a 1 kg bird across products was 0.40 cents of 1 US$ (₵) (SE ± 0.05). The most expensive products were those that included at least one high priority, critically important AAI, as well as those purchased in one of the two study districts. Farmers spent on average of ₵3.91 (SE ± 0.01) on antimicrobials per bird over the production cycle. The expense on antimicrobials in weeks with disease and low mortality was greater than on weeks with disease and high mortality, suggesting that antimicrobial use had a beneficial impact on disease outcomes (χ 2 = 3.8; p = 0.052). Farmers generally used more expensive antimicrobials on older flocks. Conclusions and recommendation The retail prices of antimicrobial products used in chicken production in Mekong Delta small-scale chicken farms are very low, and not related to their relevance for human medicine. Farmers, however, demonstrated a degree of sensitivity to prices of antimicrobial products. Therefore, revising pricing policies of antimicrobial products remains a potential option to curb the use of antimicrobials of critical importance in animal production.
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