15 December 2017

Ethiopia: Curbing Antibiotics Misuse

Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health concern worldwide. When a person is infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacterium, it is not only difficult to treat that patient but also the antibiotic-resistant bacterium spreads to other people causing severe health complications.

While antibiotics fail to cure, the result could be: longer illnesses and more complicated illnesses as well as more doctor visits. At the same time it could lead patients to using stronger and more expensive drugs. As a result the bacterial infections could cause more deaths.

World antibiotic awareness week had been observed in Ethiopia from 23-29 November, 2017 calling on all stakeholders to exert efforts in curbing the misuse of antibiotics. The panel discussion organized by various pertinent bodies was themed: Seek advice from a qualified health professional before taking antibiotics.

This writer had discussion with close friend named Mulatu Gebremariam who is expertise in medical profession.

As medical professional as well sociologist Mulatu had shared a lot on the subject with me and I made phone call to him to add some of his concerns.

Mulatu says antibiotics are important drugs. It would be difficult to understate the benefit penicillin and other antibiotics have played in treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of disease and minimizing serious complications of disease.

But there is also a problem with antibiotic medications, he indicates. Adding "drugs that used to be standard treatments for bacterial infections are now less effective or don't work at all. When an antibiotic drug no longer has an effect on a certain strain of bacteria, those bacteria are said to be antibiotic resistant."

The overuse and misuse of antibiotics are key factors contributing to antibiotic resistance. The general public, doctors and hospitals all play a role in ensuring proper use of drugs and minimizing the development of antibiotic resistance.

According to him, the danger posed by misuse of antibiotics is growing among communities in rural and urban areas of the country. Especially, it has been harming the productive age group and children.

Antibiotics, first used in the 1940s, are certainly one of the great advances in medicine. But over prescribing them has resulted in the development of resistant bacteria, that do not respond to antibiotics that may have worked in the past.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in a way that reduces the effectiveness of drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections. The bacteria survive and continue to multiply, causing more harm.

Mulatu asserts that each medicine has side effect and physicians should prescribe drugs knowing their specific dose and side effects. So families and caretakers should pay attention to the prescription of the pharmacists and physicians.

"In my view, some pharmacists show negligence in telling the reality with the side effect as well as the effect it could cause on health. At the same time, the Ministry has huge responsibility in disease prevention programs and creating awareness on antibiotics misuse in the communities. The gap should be addressed from grass root level in collaboration with pertinent stakeholders at all levels."

Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections in humans and animals. However, they may lose their effectiveness due to over-prescribing, misuse by patients and other factors. This could lead to prolonged use of drugs and more expensive treatments and increased mortality. Thus, antibiotic resistance become one of the biggest threats to global health and development today, and is rising at an alarming rate around the world.

Fortunately, Antibiotic Resistance can be controlled and contained if we work with one health approach at Global, Regional and Country levels as per the Global Plan of Action.

The WHO in the African Region and Country Office has made the fight against antibiotic resistance, a top health priority, and is working with countries to implement the Regional Emergency and Security Strategy. With the support of WHO, more countries including Ethiopia are developing and implementing national action plans to combat antibiotic resistance and improve surveillance to provide reliable data for action.

"Misuse of antibiotics puts us all at risk. Taking antibiotics unnecessarily speeds up antibiotic resistance, making infections more difficult and expensive to treat," Mulatu said.

Therefore, Mulatu advices that everyone should take consideration in seeking advice from a qualified health professional before taking any antibiotic.

He underscored the need for appropriate use of quality antibiotics and development of innovative treatments. In this regard, WHO should continue providing strategic support to the country as per the Global Plan of Action in prevention and control of Antibiotics Resistance and its readiness; working in collaboration with all stakeholders in the same endeavor.

Finally, the report of the Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration Authority (FMHACA) shows that, Antibiotics Resistance (ABR) is now occurring in over 80 communicable diseases.

Deputy Head of Inspection and license Department at EFMHACA Heran Gerba, noted that the understanding of ABR and the perception of optimal antibiotic prescription pattern is showing improvement among prescribers.

"We need to develop source of information on ABR to support prescriber's antibiotic prescription exercise."

According to her, pharmaceuticals leading difficulty include; self medicating, being able to access drugs without a doctor's prescription, not taking the right dosage, and not taking all the medication because a patient consider immediate progress.

She added that medicine factories in the country should make new medicine that challenges ABR.

Some researches show that although progress has been made in gathering and using ABR data in TB and other diseases challenges still remain. These include lack of encompassing policy and plan to address ABR, and poor regulatory capacity.

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