Drugs losing potency, WHO fears
Amid fears that antibiotics and other essential medicines may soon lose their efficacy to cure disease, countries in the Western Pacific Region on Thursday pledged to support the World Health Organization’s (WHO) efforts at fighting the resistance to drugs.
The WHO warned that the world may be returning to an era when there were no effective drug treatments for many infections. This was a result of the misuse and irrational use of drugs, a major cause of drug resistance, it said.
At the ongoing annual meeting of the WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific in Manila, the organization’s governing body and the representatives of its member-states vowed to take immediate action to improve their response to the increasing problem of drug resistance in areas where action has been inadequate.
“The misuse and irrational use of drugs are weakening the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that should have been contained decades ago,” said Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.
“At the same time, other age-old diseases are on the rise, with the possibility of no cure,” Shin said.
Over-prescription was also tagged as a major problem. It was estimated that in many settings, 50 to 70 percent of the antibiotics prescribed by health workers were unnecessary.
The participants adopted a six-point policy package that included a commitment to develop a master plan to combat antimicrobial resistance; strengthening surveillance and laboratory capacity; ensuring uninterrupted access to essential medicines of guaranteed quality; promoting the rational use of medicines in patient care and animal husbandry; enhancing infection prevention and control; and fostering innovation and research to develop new tools and drugs.
Accelerated by drug misuse
In a statement, WHO said that while the onset of antimicrobial resistance to drugs was inevitable, it was accelerated by the misuse and poor management of drugs.
The six-point package seeks to engage all of WHO’s 194 member states and the global health community to promote action for change.
While there had been efforts to deal with the issue of drug resistance in the past, implementation and commitment have lagged.
Action to combat antimicrobial resistance has been fragmented in many settings, often focusing on only one aspect of the problem instead of following a comprehensive national plan.
The WHO said there was also a need for a more comprehensive antimicrobial surveillance system to encompass most, if not all, major disease-causing bacteria.
Antimicrobial resistance is both a medical and financial catastrophe as second-line treatments are much more expensive. The difference in cost between first- and second-line drugs is a 175-fold increase for tuberculosis drugs, a twofold to 60-fold increase for antibiotics, and a threefold to 500-fold increase for antimalarial drugs.
The WHO said 57 countries worldwide had reported at least one case of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis and 120,000 individuals per year in the Western Pacific region are estimated to have multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.
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