Health Secretary Francisco Duque III himself aired the warning, but the Department of Health has to implement a more comprehensive, accessible and sustained campaign to educate the public on the dangers of self-medication, which, Duque said, is putting the country at greater risk of developing antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Simply put, when people take medication such as antibiotics on their accord without direction from a physician, they may do so in an improper or incomplete way, which can then lead to a grave consequence other than possible side effects or overdose: their body’s eventual immunity to medicine, as microbes develop resistance to the drugs.
AMR is spawning even more powerful infections—the so-called “superbugs,” bacteria or fungi that have grown immune to antibiotics treatment; worse, the infection could be spread to others. The World Health Organization has identified AMR as “one of the biggest threats to human health.”
The spread of superbugs and AMR is straining global public health, with almost half a million people now contracting multidrug resistant tuberculosis every year.
The 2014 review “Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a Crisis for the Health and Wealth of Nations” estimated that the 700,000 cases of AMR in the world today will reach a staggering 10 million by 2050.
The problem has grown with the spike in the use of antibiotics worldwide since 2000, with some of the highest consumption in Asia.
Katinka de Balogh, senior animal production health officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, recently wrote in a commentary piece in this paper that “the implications of AMR on global political, social and economic stability cannot be overstated.
This is particularly true in Asia where, by 2050, if no immediate action is taken, some 5 million people could die each year from bacterial infections that have become resistant to antibiotics, surpassing the projected number of annual cancer fatalities.”
In a DOH AMR program report, infectious disease specialist Dr. Rontgene Solante said a total of 50,895 people from 26 government hospitals in the Philippines had become resistant to antimicrobial treatments, 22 percent of them for pneumonia.
Filipinos should take heed of Duque’s reminder that, as much as possible, those who are sick should go to health centers and hospitals to get the proper prescription and to complete the dosage of the medicine required, instead of treating the sickness on their own.
This was also the message of Dr. Regina Berba, head of the DOH Antimicrobial Stewardship Steering Committee and chair of the Philippine General Hospital Infection Control Unit, in a forum on the topic last May: “Every prescription needs to be correct so that every patient is assured they are getting the right antibiotic, right dose, right route of administration, right timing, and right duration,” she said.
A no less crucial reminder was offered by former assistant health secretary Enrique Tayag in another forum: “Don’t go to social media to find answers. Go see your doctor.”
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