The PPS Graduate Professional Index conducted among almost 400 medical doctors and 160 pharmacists has revealed that 93% of the medical doctor respondents and 96% of the pharmacist respondents believe that South Africans take antibiotics too frequently. Executive: Medical Standards and Services at PPS, Dr Dominique Stott, talks about these results and how antibiotics should be used correctly.

There is a current consumer trend where a patient arrives at the doctor’s rooms having already ‘researched’ their symptoms on Google and believes that an antibiotic will ‘cure’ their condition. As a result, the PPS Graduate Professional Index survey results could be partly due to the increased consumer pressure on medical practitioners to prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily for simple conditions like colds, flu and viral infections.

Using antibiotics correctly

The over-consumption of antibiotics has resulted in an increased amount of people developing resistance against this type of medicine, in which case they are not able to respond accordingly for simple ailments it is intended for.

There are various ways to use antibiotics incorrectly; this includes not completing the course, not taking the medication at the correct time intervals or failing to take it with or without food as indicated. However, over-consumption of antibiotics can enable the development of resistance even when the medication is taken correctly.

Nowadays consumers tend to believe that a doctor’s consultation was not taken seriously by the medical professional if the patient leaves without antibiotics. Consumers need to accept that it is not about how much medicine gets prescribed, but rather about getting the right medicine to fight the infection, which in some instances might be no medication at all.

Combating antibiotic resistance

As bacteria become resistant to current antibiotics, pharmaceutical companies need to develop new antibiotics to counter the new strains of bacteria. These new antibiotics are much more expensive to develop and the current rate of bacterial resistance development is fast outpacing the rate at which new drugs to counter the bacteria can be developed, which will place immense pressure on the healthcare system.

In an effort to combat this growing issue, people should only use antibiotics when it is appropriate, follow guidance from a doctor, complete the entire course even when feeling better, do not share antibiotics with others and never use leftover antibiotic prescriptions.

Healthcare costs are already expensive but should more consumers develop antibiotic resistance, costs will soar even more significantly. New antibiotics are already expensive and as many patients may require hospitalisation, complications are more likely to develop during a lengthy hospitalisation period, which is when antibiotics are needed most. In essence, antibiotic resistance could result in mortality and morbidity rates from untreatable infection increasing across the globe.

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