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Costly abuse of antibiotics  

Shamsul Huq Zahid   | Published: November 28, 2019 22:17:33


That antibiotics have been increasingly becoming ineffective against microbial infections is an old story.

But what is more worrying is that problem has turned serious lately and it could be that antibiotics that have been developed until now will not be able to cure infections after some more years. Truly, that will be a dreadful situation.

It is natural on the part of the microbes to build resistance against drugs designed to kill or control them. But indiscriminate and imprudent use of antibiotics has been contributing greatly to the building up of such resistance.

The problem of microbes' resistance to drugs is not a country-specific one. It is rather a serious global problem. Most countries---developed or developing or underdeveloped--- are responsible for making the problem even worse. However, it is the poor developing countries like Bangladesh that have contributed more to the problem.

A research study results made public at a function in Dhaka last Wednesday did highlight the state of antibiotics abuse in Bangladesh.

According to the study, the consumption of antibiotics in Bangladesh increased by more than 5.0 per cent from 2016 to 2018. The study predicted that the increase might be around 7.0 to 8.0 per cent at the end of the current year.

The question is: Do the physicians prescribe antibiotics indiscriminately or without any diagnostic tests?

There could be some doctors who tend to prescribe antibiotics almost readily. But most doctors wait for diagnostic test results before prescribing antibiotics.

The problem lies somewhere else. In Bangladesh, one can buy almost all drugs without prescriptions from registered physicians. Some drug stores demand production of prescription if any one seeks to buy sedatives in large quantities for fear of any future legal troubles. Most medicines here, to be honest, are treated as OTCs by the drug stores. The research study results unveiled on Wednesday did also confirm that.

The patients or their relatives buy antibiotics on their own. In many cases, poor and lower middleclass people ask the drug store employees to give some medicines 'effective' against their ailments. The latter oblige readily and give antibiotics or other drugs using their 'sixth sense'.

Moreover, these types of patients hardly take full course of antibiotics and usually stop taking the same as soon as they feel better.

Such abusive actions on the part of a section of physicians, drug stores and consumers have helped the bugs develop resistance to drugs.

It is predicted that only about three antimicrobial drugs would remain effective against the gram-positive bacteria and only one against gram-negative bacteria within next seven to 10 years if the prevailing situation with drug abuse persists.

What is more worrying is that large international drug manufacturers these days are least interested in deploying funds on the development of new and effective antibiotics. The incidence of losing effectiveness of antibiotics within a short time could be one reason for the lack of interest. The pharmaceutical majors are now more interested in developing newer drugs for the treatment of cancer. Anti-cancer drugs do promise them better return than antibiotics.

It is most likely that the world would win its war against cancer one day. It may take time, but it will happen. But microbial infections will be there until the end of the world and hence there is no escape from treating those. So, developing antibiotics will have to be a continuous process side by side with the efforts to make people aware of the dangers of drug abuse.

 

zahidmar10@gmail.com

 

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