Ghana is considering making antibiotics OTC drugs

Proposals have been made to consider making antibiotics class C drugs to be sold as over-the-counter (OTC) drugs just like paracetamol by licensed chemical sellers.

In Ghana, antibiotics are mostly prescription drugs, which are regulated to be sold and dispensed by pharmacies and health facilities.

However, it is very common to see these drugs being sold as over-the-counter drugs by licensed chemical shops giving rise to antibiotics resistance.

The misuse and abuse of antibiotics leads to antibacterial resistance, ineffective treatment and more ill health in the population, health experts have stated.

Mr Samuel Afari-Asiedu, a research fellow and medical sociologist at the Kintampo Health Research Centre (KHRC) who was speaking to a team of journalists in Kintampo in the Bono East Region, said antimicrobial resistance is among the top ten threats to public health globally.

The journalists from both state-owned and private media houses are on a field trip to the KHRC. The trip was organized by the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) in collaboration with the KHRC to acquaint themselves with some of the projects of the centre and as part of activities to mark this year’s World Malaria Day, which falls on April 25.

The KHRC has over the years been engaged in various research on various diseases and issues including meningitis, malaria and antibiotics.

Mr. Afari-Asiedu said the KHRC in 2016 started a study in the area to assess the context of antibiotics use at the community level as part of a collaborative study being carried out in parts of Africa and Asia and some findings show the high inappropriate use of antibiotics.

The need for the research was necessary to see whether drugs such as flagyl, penicillin and others are no longer effective, or are just being inappropriately being misused.

Mr. Afari-Asiedu said antibiotics resistance are more common in lower-middle-income countries because of easy access to these drugs.

He said therefore it is necessary to discuss the feasibility of making a policy that would make these drugs sell as over-the-counter medicines through the training of licensed chemical sellers.

He said the KHRC is working closely with the working group on antimicrobial resistance at the Ministry of Health and a case is being made to see how to deal with the challenges around the issue of easy access to antibiotics as part of the wider problem of antimicrobial resistance.

In 2019, the World Health Organisation declared antimicrobial resistance as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, leading to increases of cases of morbidity and mortality.

Health experts have warned that a growing number of infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis (an infection with salmonella bacteria, commonly caused by contaminated food or water) are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them are becoming less effective.

The issue of abuse of antibiotics is of concern because it is very common to see people using antibiotics such as tetracycline, ampicillin, amoxicillin and metronidazole to all sorts of diseases.

Antibiotics are medicines used to treat bacterial infections and resistance is said to occur when bacteria changes in response to the use and misuse of these medicines.

This group of medications are prescribed for use against a host of bacterial infections such as pelvic inflammatory infections, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, sepsis, cholera, typhoid fever, vaginosis, infections of the intestines, eyes, ears, skin, genital, chest and respiratory infections, meningitis and sexually transmitted infections among others.

By Eunice Menka
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