Pharmacists warn on abuse of antibiotics
By Adam Ihucha, Arusha
Local and international pharmacists have expressed fears over the abuse of antibiotics, saying if the trend would continue at the present rate, curable infectious diseases, would be sending majority of the people to the grave early.
``In Tanzania the predicament of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is alarming,`` said Zaina Msami, a renowned pharmacist at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania (ELCT) project-Mission for Essential Medical Supplies (MEMS).
Addressing a press conference in Arusha yesterday, Msami said some of the causes of AMR were incorrect dispensing, failure to adhere to rules of antibiotics taking and misuse of the drugs in animal feeds such as chicken and pork to speed up their growth.
``You can`t imagine, nearly two thirds of people take antibiotics without medical doctors prescription or check up,`` she explained.
In northern Tanzania, for instance, the study has shown that 81.3 per cent of malaria patients had SP resistance, she said, adding that Ampicillin was defiant to treatment of urinary tract infections in 17.4 per cent of pregnant women.
The infections were caused by bacterium (Escherichia coli), she said.
The research results also show that 20 per cent of TB bacteria were resistant to multiple drug treatment, she said.
Tuberculosis was one of complication of Aids, she said, adding that as a consequence, the diseases had reduced the life expectancy of Tanzanians to between 47 and 49 compared to that of Norway which was between 75 and 81.
``We are all aware of the resistance of malaria parasite that has compelled the government to adopt Artemether Lumefrantine (ALU) as a first line treatment of the killer disease after Chloroquine and SP have proved resistance`` Msami noted.
Nearly 11 million people worldwide die of diseases that could be treated by antibiotics and 95 per cent of them are from poor countries, including Tanzania.
The research confirms that such deaths were due to resistance of micro-organisms reacting against medicines particularly in the treatment of TB, malaria and HIV/Aid.
At least 22 experts from 16 countries who convened in Moshi, late 2008 to deliberate on the upsurge of AMR came up with the call to fight AMR in all Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) member countries.
According to MEMS Project Manager Orgenes Lema, the gathering was organised by EPN in collaboration with Management Sciences for Health (MSH) and funded by USAID.
It gave an opportunity to members to examine the extent of AMR crisis from a number of research results.
Eventually, Lema said they collectively agreed to sensitise the community about the problem of AMR.
At the meeting Tanzania was represented by two MEMS staff who presented papers on their efforts in fighting AMR, he said.
Other efforts taken by MEMS was to raise awareness of the problem of AMR to the community by training health personnel and publishing newsletters and brochures.
Lema further said, MEMS had prepared questionnaires for use by students and hospital patients to assess the understanding of AMR problem among community members.
MEMS is responsible to improve health status of communities by creating access to a medical supply system that combines reliable source of quality drugs and medical supplies.