The Union Ministry’s National Policy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance has come as a boon to patients especially at a time when antimicrobial resistance is increasing in the country.

Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad recently told the Lok Sabha that his Ministry had framed the policy to address the problem of multi-drug resistance due to widespread and indiscriminate use of antimicrobial/antibiotic drugs.

The policy will not only review the existing scenario regarding manufacture, use and misuse of antibiotics but also will recommend the design for creation of a national Surveillance System for Antibiotic Resistance.

Policy essential

State Drugs Controller B.R. Jagashetty told The Hindu on Sunday that the policy was essential for patient safety. He said that the global increase in antimicrobial resistance and a simultaneous downward trend in the development of new antibiotics were leading to serious public health and economic implications.

“The increased antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a result of many factors, but the important one is the overall volume of antibiotic consumption, particularly for indications that do not require such therapy. These days most doctors indiscriminately prescribe higher antibiotics, even if they are not required,” Dr. Jagashetty said.

Prescription audit

The Drugs Controller expressed concern that there was no rule to check the prescription of higher antibiotics by doctors. “Prescription of higher antibiotics amounts to misuse and we have no control over this. There should be greater awareness among the doctors, who should meticulously decide on prescribing antibiotics. There is a proposal to amend the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to incorporate the system of prescription auditing, wherein the doctor has to give two prescription slips — one for the patient and other for the pharmacist. This will help in monitoring antibiotic resistance,” he said.

Shortage

Dr. Jagashetty said that officials from his department regularly inspected pharmacies to check sale of schedule drugs without prescriptions. “We have found some violations. But this is a difficult task as we have a shortage of drugs inspectors. We need 162 inspectors but have only 50,” he said.

Patient safety

Bejon Misra, founder of The Partnership for Safe Medicines India, said, “This is essential to ensure that prescriptions are in the interest of patient safety.”