The pharmacist’s role in fighting antimicrobial resistance
Each year, the overuse and abuse of antibiotics leads to 700,000 deaths from drug-resistant disease, and that figure could rise to as many as 10 million annually by 2050. Though the World Health Organization adopted a global action plan on what the global health community often calls the “silent pandemic” in 2015, progress has been limited. The rise in resistance has some unexpected drivers — and knowing them might help countries take more targeted steps to stopping it.
Also in 2015, WHO launched the Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System — the first worldwide effort to standardize the collection and analysis of data around the problem. Following a global push in 2016, 144 countries have developed national plans to better manage antibiotics. In WHO’s Africa region, 38 out of 47 countries developed such plans, with national authorities approving 27 of them. But implementation is trickier; while instituting strong regulation and digitizing outdated systems are effective approaches, they’re also expensive.
Funding, too, remains a hurdle. “Unfortunately, a majority of the national action plans … were developed sort of in a rush ... and did not really take into consideration the costing bit of it,” says Dr. Tracie Muraya, policy officer at ReAct Africa. “This is then riddled with little or no political commitment.”
Some effective forms of action may also take time to produce results. In Uganda, antibiotics require prescriptions — but misuse is still rampant, and critics point to a business model that incentivizes pharmacies to increase sales rather than withhold antibiotics from people who don’t need them. WHO says teaching pharmacists to properly manage the drugs is key, as is providing them with business training to ensure their finances remain robust.