THE Directorate General of Drug Administration’s negligence towards, or perhaps reluctance at, stopping the sales of antibiotics without prescriptions written by registered physicians is worrying. The sales of antibiotics without prescriptions continues apace, as New Age reported on Sunday, even after the High Court Division on April 25 ordered the government to stop such sales of antibiotics in a move meant to head off a public health disaster by way of antimicrobial resistances that unregulated and rampant use of antibiotics cause. The court order came that time against the backdrop of a growing concern about antimicrobial resistance, caused by misuse and abuse of antibiotics, which the drug administration officials say is the second best-selling drug product in Bangladesh after the drugs for stomach acidity. A recent study, as New Age then reported, shows that 400 out of 900 patients admitted to the intensive care unit in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University hospital died from antimicrobial resistance. A review on antibiotic resistance in Bangladesh published in the March issue of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, as New Age reported in early March, also paints a horrid picture of antibiotic resistance of many common bacteria in Bangladesh.
In a situation like this, the Directorate General of Drug Administration not even lifting a finger is unacceptable, especially after the court on April 25 asked the authorities to issue a circular in two days asking deputy commissioners and civil surgeons to take required stops to stop the sales of antibiotics without prescriptions. A month has already gone by. The drug administration directorate general, however, seeks to explain its inaction saying that they were yet to receive a copy of the High Court Division’s order. But there appears to be no harm on part of the Directorate General of Drug Administration to ensure a rational use of drugs, especially antibiotics, when it comes to greater public good and means to head off a public health disaster. Health rights advocates also say that the authorities do not need the court order to stop the sales of medicines without prescriptions. The misuse and abuse of antibiotics, even in cases where antibiotics are not needed such as the incidence of fever, cold and diarrhoea, allow bacteria to mutate and adapt to counter antibiotics, resulting in antimicrobial resistance.
It is for the drug administration authorities, as part of their mandated responsibility, to keep watch on the sales of antibiotics without prescriptions written by registered physicians when overuse of such drugs harms public health. Antibiotic self-medication is also prohibited by the Allopathic System (Prevention of Misuse) Ordinance 1962. In view of all this, the Directorate General of Drug Administration, therefore, appears to be reluctant at rising to the occasion even after a High Court Division’s order in this direction. The government must immediately comply with the court order in earnest. The managers of public health must also see that physicians do not readily prescribe antibiotics, cases that are not rare, to cure diseases that do not require antibiotics.
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