Spotlight on Antibiotic Abuse

December 1, 2021

It might not seem like it, but one of the most important health challenges of the 21st century is something we’ve been taught is our best ally to getting better. Antibiotic overuse has left a detrimental impact on society and everyone from pharmacists to physicians say, time has already run out on preventing this catastrophe.

A look at a joint report by the UN, World Health Organization and World Organization for Animal Health is enough to paint the dire picture. It says by 2050, 10 million deaths could be caused by drug resistant diseases – that figure eclipsed by the 24 million people who’ll be thrown into devastating poverty as a result.

Avishkaar Rampearie, Busamed Group Pharmacy Practice Manager says radical change needs to made to the discourse around antibiotics because in the long run, antibiotic overuse empowers even simple bacteria to become superbugs.
Superbugs or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacterales (CRE) are strains of bacteria that are resistant to an antibiotic class used to treat severe infections. Mr. Rampearie says it is called a ‘superbug’ because there is virtually nothing that can stop if from causing infection in your body, particularly your lungs, bladder and even skin. Superbugs can also spread and share their antibiotic-resistant qualities with the healthy bacteria in your body.

Antibiotic overuse is also a problem because effectively, the industry has not produced new antibiotic formulas in the recent past. This is why an antimicrobial stewardship program has been formed. Comprised of health-sector professionals like pharmacists, physicians, nurses and so on, this council helps guide antibiotic treatments to prevent resistance and aid a patient’s recovery.

Mr. Rampearie says rational antibiotic dosing needs the buy-in from each role player to have realised benefit in the patient-treatment path.

“New antibiotics are not developed with the kind of frequency that would allow for us to stay ahead of bacterial evolution and this is why we need to support from within the medical industry first, to stop the over prescription of antibiotics to patients.”
Mr. Rampearie says while antibiotics are an innovative therapy, the management of it has cascading consequences on quality of life. “Without it (antibiotics) society might not have even made it to the 21st century. But there are simple infections that we’re battling to combat, these days, with the first and second classes of common antibiotics and that’s cause for concern.”

He says the Covid-19 pandemic revealed that basic personal protection is an excellent start. “What we noticed is that with the mandated wearing of masks, sanitising of hands in public areas and education on cross-infection from touching the eyes, nose and mouth, the typical spikes of influenza had significantly dropped. That’s proof-positive that personal hygiene helps to curb community infections.

Mr. Rampearie agrees that without a commitment from the industry to be stewards of responsible antibiotic dispensing, there can be no sustainable fix. The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 2.8 million people worldwide are presently infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, accounting for almost a million deaths around the globe.

Avishkaar Rampearie
Group Pharmacy Manager