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ANOTHER CATASTROPHE IN THE MAKING

Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, August 25, 2021, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

A recent study, conducted by the researchers at the department of pharmacology of the Vallabhai Patel Chest Institute at Delhi University in collaboration with Canada and US Universities, has revealed that the sale of antibiotics has increased alarmingly in the country during the last some years, especially during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. According to the study, sale of azithromycin alone has increased by 34.4 per cent in India between June and September, 2020. In fact, the sale of this drug peaked to 38 million excess doses compared to the sales in the previous years of 2018 and 2019 during the same period. Likewise, sales of doxycycline and faropenem were higher by around 25 per cent. Researchers also found that during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic period, 16,290 million doses of antibiotics were sold in the year 2020 alone, an excess of 216 million doses! During the pandemic, the government had made online prescriptions legal. With this, many people had used same prescriptions multiple times to procure medicines online. For instance, a single prescription was used by 20 people to buy medicines online and circulation of the same was done by online platforms like Whatsapp. It is a fact that anyone who was diagnosed with Covid-19 infection was given antibiotics in which azithromycin, doxycycllin, ciprofloxacin, norfloxaciin and oxfloxacin were administered by the physicians. However, as long as the antibiotics are taken as per the doctor’s advice over a limited period, it may not cause much harm. But there are people who are habituated of buying the antibiotics over-the-counter at pharmacies even for small ailments. Many are also resorting to self-medications and even checking on mobile phones as to what medicines they need to buy for their symptoms without consulting a doctor. This kind of development can be seen as a dangerous trend which will precipitate the situation.
The world today is literally standing on the edge of a post-antibiotic era - a world without antibiotics, in which illnesses from minor throat infections to serious illnesses like cholera, tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc will become untreatable. There are no two opinions among the medical fraternity about the fact one of the major health problems being faced by the country today, for that matter the entire world, is antimicrobial resistance, also known as AMR. And this is not the health crisis of the present generation alone, as it is going to be the biggest health crisis of the next generation too, if not tackled in time. Health experts world over have already red flagged over the looming grim situation of a world without antibiotics, if necessary steps are not taken immediately. Even though AMR also occurs naturally over time, indiscriminate and incorrect uses of antibiotics are the major reasons for the emergence of antimicrobial resistance. It occurs when micro-organisms, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, evolve to resist the drugs that would otherwise kill them. Unnecessary antimicrobial use in humans and agriculture exacerbates the problem. The hard fact is that, misuse and overuse of antibiotics are threatening to undo decades of medical progress. It is often observed that the availability of these life-saving medicines over-the-counter makes matters worse as people tend to purchase antibiotic drugs even for illnesses which are due to a virus rather than a bacterium. Apparently, another healthcare catastrophe is looming large on the horizon.

 

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