The Sri Lanka Chamber of the Pharmaceutical Industry (SLCPI) reiterated its commitment towards raising awareness on ethical marketing, prescribing and use of pharmaceutical drugs, as a key instrument towards minimising the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Sri Lanka.
The Chamber echoed these views in light of ‘World Antimicrobial Awareness Week’, which is celebrated annually in November, to raise awareness on global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to stop the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.
SLCPI noted that the persistent overuse and misuse of antibiotics have encouraged the emergence and spread of AMR, which occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, become resistant to the drugs used to treat them. It is noted that in Sri Lanka, self-medication and insufficient pharmaceutical knowledge amongst pharmacists, have become contributory factors leading towards AMR (National Antibiotics Guidelines, 2016).
Are we taking antibiotics for granted?
The United Nations has declared AMR as one of the top ten global health threats facing humanity, with 700,000 deaths reported each year. They further warned that if no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050, leaving developing countries in Asia, especially vulnerable to AMR.
According to data from the Sri Lanka College of Microbiologists, bacteria such as S.aureus (MRSA) and S. pneumoniae that cause life-threatening blood infections, have exhibited a resistance rate of 53% and 95% respectively, to first-line antibiotics. While Acinetobacter, a pathogen causing blood, urinary tract and lung infections showed a rate of 38% resistance to even the second-line antibiotics (National AMR Surveillance Data, 2014).
Compounding the issue is the insufficient pharmaceutical knowledge of antibiotics among pharmacists. According to a study in 2017, it was witnessed that 90% of the time, pharmacists contributed to the irrational practice of self-medication with antibiotics where medicines were issued for illnesses relating to respiratory symptoms, fever, wounds and urinary symptoms (Ceylon Medical Journal, 2017). It is noteworthy that antibiotics cannot be dispensed without a valid prescription in Sri Lanka as they are categorised as prescription-only medicine.
AMR – An urgent call for action
Valuing the importance of addressing antimicrobial resistance, the membership of SLCPI stressed that they are continuing to work towards promoting ethical marketing and prescription of drugs with relevant stakeholders, which is pivotal to addressing AMR.
“As an apex body, we have recognised the need to uphold the highest ethical standards in all aspects of our industry to ensure the well-being and health of the patient. This means taking a conscious step towards a patient-centric approach from a product-centric one,” SLCPI Vice President and head of the ethics committee, Azam Jaward remarked.
The Chamber noted that several principals of the SLCPI membership are part of the AMR Industry Alliance, which is one of the largest private-sector coalitions aimed at providing sustainable solutions to curb antimicrobial resistance. With over 100 biotech, diagnostics, generics and research-based pharmaceutical companies and associations joining forces and, as signatory companies of the Davos Declaration, these companies are committed to reducing the development of antimicrobial resistance; investing in R&D; and, improving access to high-quality antibiotics and vaccines (AMR Industry Alliance, 2020).
“It is evident that there needs to be an urgent and coordinated action to address AMR and one way we can achieve this is by working collaboratively with the government and relevant stakeholders to educate healthcare professionals and patients on the value and importance of using antibiotics appropriately”, he added.