Guidelines on antibiotic usage necessary

Antibiotic is a life-saving drugs which is usually administered as the last resort for the patients. But its arbitrary use without following proper guidelines and prescription by physicians can have serious side effects. Wrong antibiotics can even risk a patient’s life.

According to a Prothom Alo report some 75 per cent Covid-19 patients were administered with antibiotics without any specific reason. Such unnecessary use of antibiotics has put the public at risk.

The extensive use of antibiotics in Bangladesh during the pandemic came up in a research article published in the journal International Society for Infectious Diseases in the second week of June. It states although antibiotics are hardly needed in coronavirus treatment, it was used extensively in Bangladesh during the pandemic.

The research was based on a survey conducted on some 3,693 coronavirus patients admitted to five hospitals in the country. The experts said antibiotics were much in demanding for treating Covid-19 patients.  

BSMMU internal medicine department associate professor Fazle Rabbi Chowdhury, who was involved in the research, told Prothom Alo, “The efficacy of antibiotics is directly connected to its usage. It’s an important public health aspect.”

The Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and other relevant organisations had been saying that some of the antibiotics have lost effectiveness due overuse. The use of antibiotics skyrocketed following the outbreak of coronavirus regardless of the fact that if it was needed at all.

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It was found in the research that 94.4 per cent of the coronavirus patients admitted to these five hospitals under study were administered with antibiotics. However, antibiotics were needed to treat only 18.9 per cent of those patients, meaning that the remaining patients did not at all need to be administered with it.

Usually antibiotics are prescribed to use for seven days at maximum. However, the research revealed that some 1,216 patients were advised to use antibiotics for more than 10 days. There was a patient who was advised to use antibiotics even for 32 days. The antibiotics which were used the most include Ceftriaxone, Co-amoxiclav, Azithromycin and Meropenem.

Although unnecessary use of antibiotic is a global problem, the extent of this problem is more pervasive in Bangladesh. Not only during Covid-19 period, arbitrary use of antibiotics was always there and still in place.
Not only physicians, the patients too are to blame for this situation. Many physicians prescribe high dose antibiotics as a quick fix. On the other hand, many patients use antibiotics without being prescribed. They also change one antibiotics for other themselves to get remedy.

There should be a strong guideline on antibiotics sales and usage. National Drug Policy in 2016 proposed banning the sale of antibiotics without a physician's prescription but it has not been implemented. The policy also prohibits the sale and purchase of drugs in pharmacies except by pharmacists licensed by the Pharmacy Council of Bangladesh (Grade A, B and C).

Lack of a standard guideline on antibiotics usage in Bangladesh is also a major reason behind the arbitrary use of antibiotics. World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2011 developed a practical hospital antibiotic policy and standard treatment guidelines. We think Bangladesh should also implement a standard policy for antibiotic in line with the WHO guidelines.

While there is no chance to make reparation for the loss caused by antibiotic overuse, prevention of such practice in future can save people from health risks and unnecessary spending in name of treatment.