Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), particularly due to resistance to antibiotics is a serious global health issue. This is because anti-microbial resistance makes antibiotics less effective in the treatment of bacterial infections, causing the infections to become more severe infections, which can be recurrent or prolonged, and can lead to death.
Dr Grace Ikahu-Muchangi talked to several AMR experts on the role of over the counter sale of antibiotics on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and this is what they had to say:
According to the Ministry of Health, the public needs to know about the dangers that they are exposing themselves to when they access the antibiotics over the counter and their harmful effects. Dr. Maurice Wakwabubi, who is the Ministry’s Head of Department for Health Standards & Quality Assurance, over the counter sale of antibiotics contributes to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the following ways:
- Unrestricted access to antibiotics may cause bacteria to develop resistance
- Not relying on proper diagnostic tests before treatment means we could be exposing bacteria and other disease-causing micro-organisms to ineffective medicines which can lead to resistance,
- Patients can expose themselves to the wrong dosage of medicines if they take them without a doctor’s prescription, and this can also lead to the development of resistance.
Not all infections require antibiotics
Not all infections require an antibiotic, because some infections, such as flu or a common cold are caused by viruses, which do not require antibiotics for treatment.
Overuse of antibiotics
The widespread availability of antibiotics without prescription translates to overuse and contributes to selection pressure for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria circulating in an environment. This is because antibiotics are sold over the counter without a prescription which can only be determined by a health care provider.
The Public’s role in preventing AMR
The public should be educated on the meaning of AMR, its causes, consequences, preventive measures and their role in curbing this serious issue.
- Original and generic antibiotics work the same way in terms of efficacy (strength) to treat infections.
- We must complete the dose and we must not share antibiotics with another person, even though they show similar symptoms.
Role of counter sale personnel
- Should be educated on AMR and potential risks of selling antibiotics over the counter
- Counter sale staff in pharmacies should have adequate technical knowledge and skills, including on AMR
- Should not sell antibiotics over the counter without a prescription
- Should not sell antibiotics to treat colds, flu, coughs, sore throats, and other viral infections
- Are ideally positioned to educate the public on the dangers of AMR, and discourage self-medication by clients