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Partnerships necessary to curb misuse of antibiotics

Is society misusing antibiotics? This seems to be the case based on figures released by the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) warning that by 2015 as many as 10 million people a year could die from antimicrobial resistant infections (AMR). Recent figures show as many as 70% of GP prescriptions for antibiotics in South Africa are inappropriate.

The Minister of Health has made various efforts to generate momentum in AMR awareness in South Africa, and joined the Global Action Plan to combat AMR.

A globally co-ordinated, multi-faceted, multi-stakeholder approach is required to address the challenges contributing to resistance; government, academics, the pharmaceutical industry, private and public healthcare workers, general practitioners, infectious disease specialists, nursing staff and pharmacologists, including regulatory officials and patients, need to work together to reduce the misuse of antibiotics and ensure that these are prescribed and used correctly, in order to maximise their long-term efficacy.

Initiatives in both public and private hospitals to promote the responsible use of antibiotics through monitoring and tracking their use in the hospital setting, and creating awareness among healthcare providers, is vital to prevent the rise of superbugs. Patients also have a role to play, by asking their doctors whether antibiotics are necessary and, in some cases, requesting diagnostic tests to identify whether the infection is susceptible to antibiotic treatment.

The Innovative Pharmaceutical Association has just five of its 25 members actively engaged in developing new antibiotics. Globally, over the past three decades only two new classes of antibacterial medicines have been discovered, compared to 11 in the previous 50 years. The paucity is particularly concerning. “Even if we can increase the number of drugs discovered, the task will never be complete because our most recently approved and most effective drugs will gradually decline in efficiency and we will need to replace them,” says Dr Sebati, (Executive Officer of IPASA). The situation is worsened by lengthy regulatory timelines and uncertainty.

Research on new antibiotics and investment in new diagnostic tools should be encouraged by policy changes, allowing shorter clinical trials for promising molecules, faster local approval of internationally approved medicines, and incentivising academics and drug companies to develop groundbreaking drugs.

Global partnerships across the healthcare sector are required to deal with the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. These medicines are critical.

Story by: Dr Konji Sebati

Last Updated on 22 March 2016 by HPCSA Corporate Affairs