Preserving the Miracle of Antibiotics

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on June 24, 2013

When we look back at the time when Penicillin (an antibiotic - drug used to treat infections caused by bacteria and other microorganisms) was discovered, very soon the discoverer, Alexander Flemming, claimed that if antibiotics were not used or managed effectively then that day would not be far when antibiotics would be rendered useless. Over the years, we have seen plethora of antibiotics being discovered but the question lies why we need so many antibiotics when microorganisms are just to be killed or arrested to grow. The answer was, is and will be that these microorganisms (bugs) find mechanisms to evade their death. So, are we saying that these bugs are more innovative than human beings?  Many people would not agree to this since science has the power of innovation and we are in the world of competition. In the race to outcompete others we are forgetting the importance of life.

When I look ahead at the pharmaceutical industry’s pipeline of antibiotics, I wonder what will happen if Alexander Flemming’s prediction comes true? According to some experts, if the current trend of antibiotic resistance is continued then bugs would become resistant to antibiotics by 2015-16, given the dry pipeline of antibiotics. Let us first understand what is resistance against antibiotics- (also known as Anti-Microbial Resistance) it is the ability of microorganisms to prevent a drug from working against it. As a result, the infection persists and may spread to others. Now the question is, is it just the innovation which is required or there are some other issues that needs to be addressed? We must realize it soon that we are dealing with human life, the most precious thing on earth. We can’t just only be competitive and stay ignorant of the fact that antimicrobial resistance needs a corrective approach with respect to its usage. There is a widespread lack of knowledge with respect to antibiotics usage. There comes the problem of management - we are lacking in the management of correct use of antibiotics.

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If we look at Indian scenario, you will find that most of us do not comply with the rules. We have a very casual attitude towards most of the things; be it traffic rules or health related issues. We do not realize the importance of something until it becomes jeopardizing. Let us take the example of antibiotic use in the Indian family. Here the Doctor prescribes a course of antibiotics to the patient. Patient takes it for a few days and once he recovers from his ailments or gets some relief, he stops taking medicine without bothering to complete the course. Reason behind this could be: saving the medicines for the next time, cost or sheer ignorance.

It is advised that the course of antibiotics should be completed for complete cure of disease and if we do not comply with this there is a high chance that bugs would become resistant to the drug. Who is to be blamed here? The doctor or the patient- We do not have the answer perhaps. Patient can be blamed if he has the proper information on how to use the antibiotics and what if he does not comply with its usage. But what if the patient was ill informed? Can we blame the doctors in such a case who are considered to be demigods?

We certainly cannot overlook the steps taken by the Government with respect to improving the healthcare in India. But, ‘compliance’ remains one of the burning issues. With the enlisting of 348 drugs under the essential category and hence lowering the price, it certainly aims to help people who cannot afford to buy expensive life saving drugs; but on the contrary, what have we done to manage the compliance to their usage? What if the patient buys the drug from Jan Aushadhi Store (stores meant to provide essential medicines at cheaper price) and just because it is cheap he/she does not pay much attention to its use?

So far, we did concentrate on innovation of new drugs and we have achieved the target to some extent but I think now it’s high time that we start focusing on its management as well. According to me, there is certainly a pressing need for the effective management of antibiotics and its usage. But again the question arises who will manage it and how. There has to be a concerted approach from the whole fraternity of healthcare providers - be it doctors, nurses, pharmacists, educationist, pharmaceutical companies and even patients. A doctor while prescribing an antibiotic should also educate the patient about the side effects of drug non- compliance. This information can be reiterated in normal parlance by the pharmacists when they dispense such drugs to the patients. Hoardings and banners displaying information about the safe use of antibiotics can be put up in pharmacies and clinical establishments in order to increase awareness. Such initiatives can be taken up by pharmaceutical companies as a Corporate Social Responsibility. However, in India we all know that most of the chemist shops are run by individuals who are not registered pharmacist but have procured the license to run the same. Such practices can be curbed only by stringent checks from the Government. Apart from this, media can play a very important role in spreading awareness. Just like NACO, educational advertisements by Health Regulatory Authorities should be aired to educate the masses about right usage of antibiotics and how their casual approach can affect them and have negative repercussions on the entire society as well. Initially implementation of these corrective measures will require time and effort but in the long run the outcome of such information spread would be phenomenal.

This article has been authored by Pragati Jaiswal, Pratyush Kumar from TAPMI

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