Dealing with misuse of antibiotics All hands must be on deck

BY: Timothy Ngnenbe
• Dr Owen-Laws Kaluwa —  WHO Country  representative to Ghana
• Dr Owen-Laws Kaluwa — WHO Country representative to Ghana

“Think twice, seek advice; misuse of antibiotics puts us all at risk.” This is Ghana’s striking theme as she joined the rest of the world to mark this year’s World Antibiotics Awareness Week (WAWW) from November 12 to 20.

At the national launch of this global event in Accra last Monday (November 12), the strategic partners made a clarion call on all stakeholders to rise up and be counted in the search for solutions to anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

In a joint press release on November 12  to mark WAAW, the Ministry of Health (MOH), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGH) asked members of the public to be on the alert regarding the use of antibiotics.

The partners also urged the public to seek advice from qualified health professionals before taking antibiotics.

The  AMR situation

According to WHO, AMR is the ability of a microorganism such as bacteria, viruses and some parasites to stop an antimicrobial such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials from working against it.

This situation causes standard treatments to become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

The resistant bacteria which infect humans and animals become more difficult to treat than the non-resistant ones.

Without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery, for instance, caesarean sections or hip replacements, become very high risk.

Dangers with AMR

 They can spread between people and animals, including from food of animal origin, and from person to person. Poor infection control, inadequate sanitary conditions and inappropriate food-handling encourage the spread of antimicrobial resistance.

One major effect of AMR is that it increases the cost of health care because of longer stay in hospitals and more intensive care requirement.

It is one of the greatest threats to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those on quality and accessible health care.

Action

According to the WHO Country representative to Ghana, Dr Owen-Laws Kaluwa, the situation whereby antibiotics were overused and misused in people and animals, and often given without professional oversight, made the AMR situation even dire.

 Speaking at the WAAW, he called for stringent measures involving key state agencies to clamp down on activities that result in the irresponsible use of antibiotics such as wrong prescriptions, inappropriate self-medication and over-the-counter sale of antibiotics from unlicensed and unapproved outlets.

Making reference to the theme for this year’s WAAW, he said antibiotics ought to be used advisedly.

In his speech during the launch of the event, the Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, tasked the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), the Pharmacy Council and the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Council (TAMC) to clamp down on the activities of persons who were fueling the abuse of antibiotics and contributing to the rise of AMR.

“Members of the public should not demand antibiotics from health workers based on information obtained from the Internet; they should rather seek advice from health

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professionals for appropriate action. We must all practise good hygiene and safe disposal of waste,” he added.
This directive came at a time drug peddlers had taken over every space, especially in Accra.

From commercial vehicles, lorry stations, market centers, to public gatherings, persons who have very little or no knowledge about medicine sell drugs to members of the public.

Way forward

As highlighted in the theme for this year’s WAAW, it is important for more emphasis to be placed on awareness creation as a way to sensitise the public to the AMR situation and the need to take preventive measures against it.

There is also the need for increased investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions that will help to contain the AMR menace.

While more is expected of healthcare professionals and regulators to control the negative impact of AMR, it is critical for members of the public to also do their part.

Members of the public must ensure that they use antibiotics only when it has been medically prescribed .

Consumers need to also adhere strictly to the prescription and advise on dosage prescribed  by qualified pharmacists.