How health professionals, medicine vendors, others fuel antibiotics resistance

Experts in the healthcare sector have identified factors fueling rising rate of antibiotics resistance by infection-causing germs in Nigeria.

The factors are: greed by health professionals to make money from patients through wrong drug prescriptions; poor adherence to prescriptions; high health expenditure; circulation and sale of unapproved and poor quality antimicrobial agents by under-regulated patent medicine vendors and hawkers.

The experts, who made the disclosure during the commemoration of the 2021 World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), warned that the country and the world may be heading towards the pre-antibiotic period when infections and wounds killed freely without effective treatments and cure.

Speaking at a virtual media dialogue with experts and stakeholders organised by St. Racheal’s Pharma, the experts agreed that government, medical practitioners and the general public must make concerted effort to preserve the few antibiotics currently in the market, to ensure their continued effectiveness, as no new ones are currently being introduced.

A Consultant Clinical Microbiologist at the Lagos State College of Medicine and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Bamidele Mutiu, blamed health practitioners for contributing to the antibiotic resistance situation in Nigeria.

According to him, some doctors prescribe the drugs without properly investigating whether or not antibiotics are required.

He said the challenges influenced the theme of this year’s WAAW, ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance’, which, he noted, should start with health practitioners.

“Every time we come in contact with patients within and outside the hospital, we should tell them they don’t need antibiotics unless it is indicated, backed up by laboratory diagnosis, microbiological evidence and sensitivity testing. I can tell you we, the health workers, are also guilty.

“For some of us, every patient they see, they are adding antibiotics to their prescriptions to increase the amount patients will pay and increase profit. We should look inward because we, the health workers, have a role to play,” he said.

On his part, the Managing Director of St. Racheal’s Pharma, Akinjide Adeosun, traced the problem of antibiotic resistance in Nigeria to the country’s high out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure.

According to him, the pressure on patients to pay often leads to sub-optimal purchase of antimicrobial doses, thereby encouraging microbials to be resistant to available drugs.

Adeosun further called for speedy passage of a revolutionary bill for free health care services for children in the country.

In her presentation, Head, Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH), Dr. Esohe Ogboghodo, traced the causes of antibiotics resistance to unrestricted access by members of the public, which often results in abuse.

Ogboghodo, who is also a Public Health Physician, further stated that unrestricted access to antimicrobials over the counter from pharmacies, under-regulated patent medicine vendors and hawkers might be the biggest driver of resistance in Nigeria.