How to tame the risk of anti-microbial resistance
Samuel Kimeu and Derick Ngaira
Antimicrobial resistance is a situation that occurs when viruses, fungi, parasites and bacteria do not respond to medication, making illness harder to treat hence escalating the risk of severe illness, disease spread and death.
Various factors like overuse of drugs, such as antibiotics, by human beings, agriculture and livestock as well as poor access to water and sanitation, have led to an increase in the threat of AMR.
Despite its severity, misuse and lack of access to antibiotics has been overlooked over the decades.
According to global data shared on the Ministry of Health website, 10 million lives are lost annually as a result of AMR and it’s projected that the menace will cause a reduction of the global GDP by three per cent by 2050.
The outbreak of Covid has exacerbated the effects of AMR. Not so long ago both mainstream and social media was awash with reports of Covid patients and survivors experiencing severe illness as a result of overuse or misuse of certain antibiotics to reduce chest pain.
Various studies have revealed firsthand how lack and misuse of antibiotics threatens lives and the core foundations of modern medicine.
From the findings shared regarding citizens’ experience on AMR, it’s evident addressing it in Kenya is a matter of urgency.
To overcome the risks associated with AMR, we need a three-pronged approach: Ensure appropriate use of antibiotics, increase their availability and eradicate barriers to access but at the same time enforce regulations to curb over-the-counter access to the drugs. This is how:
First, to ensure appropriate use of antibiotics, we need to increase awareness on AMR at the community level.
This can be implemented through diverse communication approaches and channels, including interpersonal communications, use of local media and healthcare workers.
Effects of antimicrobial resistance need to be over-emphasised to citizens to yield positive change in behaviour on the use of antibiotics.
Secondly, we need to increase availability of antibiotics in health facilities and ensure they are of good quality. Disruptions to supply chains should not adversely impact access to antibiotics by the patients.
Public health facilities are synonymous with shortages and stock outs of antibiotics.
In most cases referring patients to buy the drugs from the market where the quality of drugs is not always assured.
Thirdly, to eradicate barriers to access but at the same time enforce regulations to curb over-the-counter access to drugs, unscrupulous dealers should be curtailed.
We need to promote best practices in prescribing and dispensing antibiotics.
Pharmacy and Poisons Board needs to move with speed and bring to a halt the selling of antibiotics without a valid doctor’s prescription.
They should also mount an awareness campaign that focuses on the risks and the dangers of using over-the-counter drugs without prescription from a qualified health practitioner.
Ultimately, we need to use all arsenals to ensure the impacts of antibiotic resistance are downscaled.
Importantly, no single entity can address AMR on its own. Stakeholders, drawn from the government, nonprofits and private sector, should focus on building and strengthening new and existing partnerships. — Kimeu is the Executive Director while Ngaira is Communications Assistant, Africa’s Voices Foundation