World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified antibiotics into different groups based on their therapeutic efficacy and to curb the increasing risk of superbug infections. It has asked member-countries, including India, to adopt the classification in their health systems to cut the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Antibiotics are the most sold drugs segment in India with sales of over Rs 1,000 crore.
The WHO classification specifies which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections, which ones should be available at all times, and those that must be used as a last resort. The move is significant as the classification makes it easier for policy-makers and medical professionals to select the right antibiotic and protect the endangered antibiotics.
“Antimicrobial resistance is an invisible pandemic,” said Dr Mariângela Simão, Assistant-Director General for WHO’s Access to Medicines. “We are already starting to see signs of a post-antibiotic era, with the emergence of infections that are untreatable by all classes of antibiotics. We must safeguard these precious last-line antibiotics to ensure we can still treat and prevent serious infections.”
In India, antibiotic resistance has emerged as a major risk undermining many other advances in medicine. This, despite the government and the regulator taking several steps to curb the menace including a national action plan, introduction of red line on packs of high end antibiotics to differentiate them from other drugs, and fixing ‘tolerance limits’ for presence of antibiotics in food items.
Unnecessary prescriptions and misuse of antibiotics are causing drug resistance for several critical diseases including tuberculosis, HIV, urinary tract infection and malaria. Rising level of resistance is also causing risks in life-saving medical procedures. Experts say there are still gaps in adoption and effective implementation of the action plan causing an obstacle in checking misuse of antibiotics.
“Though over 100 countries have put in place national plans to tackle antimicrobial resistance, only about one fifth of those plans are funded and implemented,” WHO says. Globally, over 7 lakh deaths each year are attributed to drug resistance. In India, an additional two million lives can be lost till 2050 due to drug resistance. Currently, it is estimated that more than 50% of antibiotics in many countries are used inappropriately such as for treatment of viruses when they only treat bacterial infections or use of the wrong (broader spectrum) antibiotic, thus contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance. In the absence of new significant investments into the development of new antibiotics, improving the use of antibiotics is one of the key actions needed to curb the spread of antimicrobial. – The Times of India