The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB) has warned Kenyans over the growing incidence of antimicrobial resistance due to the abuse of antibiotics. But what does it really mean?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites develop mechanisms to overcome medicines. As a result of this adaptation, the microbes or disease-causing organisms no longer respond to medicines.
The World Health Organization has declared AMR as one of the top ten global public health threats facing humanity. In a notice dated March 29, 2021, the state regulatory body indicated there was increasing resistance to antimicrobials or antibiotics.
“The PPB would like to warn the general public about the increasing resistance to antimicrobial medicines that include antibiotics, antivirals, antiparasitics and antifungals, both in Kenya and globally. These medicines are used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants,” read the PPB notice.
Antibiotics Can Harm Your Health
According to the board, AMR endangers the health of humans and animals due to the slow rate of discovery and development of new drugs.
“The misuse and overuse of antimicrobial medicines in humans, animals and food production pose a high risk to the health of the public considering that very few new antimicrobial medicines are being discovered over time. Antimicrobial resistance leads to inadequate treatment of infections, longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased deaths,” says the PPB.
In a January 21, 2020 interview published in the Down to Earth science publication, deputy director of veterinary services Allan Azegele voiced worry over the rising rate of AMR in Kenya due to the abuse of antibiotics in both humans and animals.
Citing the example of mastitis, an inflammation of the cow’s udder that is associated with poor animal husbandry including hygiene, Dr Azegele said AMR is aggravated by the farmers’ efforts to treat the disease by themselves.
“Many such cases come after farmers have tried treating the animals themselves. This is a clear case of antibiotics abuse as farmers use them without a confirmed diagnosis of which the infection-causing organism and what drugs it might be sensitive or resistant to,” Dr Azegele said.
Previously, WHO has raised concerns about untreatable Gonorrhea.
Antimicrobial Resistance; What Can You Do
Kenya has developed a strategic plan to counter AMR through the National Action Plan on Prevention and Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance, which runs from 2017 -2022.
A situational analysis of the AMR status of Kenya published by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) indicates that there are more than 200 antibiotic-resistant genes in the country.
This situation has been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic that led to a rise in people seeking to purchase drugs like hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), dexamethasone and Ivermectin across the counter.
On April 3, 2020, the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) issued a warning over the purchase of hydroxychloroquine over the counter by Kenyans.
“The PSK, taking into account the safety, efficacy and potential for abuse of HCQ, recommends that healthcare providers use WHO guidelines in the treatment of Covid-19. We also discourage over-the-counter dispensing of HCQ by community pharmacists,” read the notice.
According to the physician-operated standards watchdog US Pharmacopeia (USP), antimicrobial resistance (AMR) causes an estimated 700,000 deaths annually worldwide.
USP estimates that the number of deaths caused by the wrong use of antimicrobials could grow to 10 million in the next three decades.
PPB, which is mandated with setting standards for medicine use in the country, is now discouraging the public from buying antimicrobials across the counter.
“The public is discouraged from self-medication with antimicrobial medicines. It should only access antimicrobial medicines using valid prescriptions from registered pharmacies, chemists, clinics and hospitals,”
PPB is further cautioning Kenyans not to rush for antimicrobials whenever they experience medical complications. This, says the board, is not the correct way to handle the situation.
“Antibiotics are a class of antimicrobial medicines that are only effective against bacterial infections. Antibiotics are not the solution for infections caused by viruses such as common colds and flu,” says the PPB.
People with health issues should see a certified medical practitioner who will then diagnose their condition after examining them.
“The correct diagnosis and the decision about whether antibiotics are necessary can only be made by a qualified health-care professional,” the statement states.
PPB is also calling on Kenyans to always complete their doses of antimicrobials.
“The public should ensure that they complete all full prescribed antimicrobial medicines,” says the advisory note.
The PPB has also requested Kenyans to return unused medicines to chemists who dispensed them, or to the nearest medical facility.
“Unused antimicrobial medicines should not be disposed of in toilets or waste bins but returned to the pharmacy or chemist where it was obtained from or taken to the nearest clinic or hospital,” the notice reads.
“Antimicrobial medicines should not be stored at home for purposes of future use,” says the board. PPB is also advising against the sharing of medicines between patients and others who are yet to see a doctor and get the same prescription.
“The public should not share antimicrobial medicines with friends or relatives,” the notice reads.
For any inquiries on AMR, please reach out to the PPB through the email address email@example.com or call +254795743049,