The Federal Government has warned Nigerians against buying antibiotics over the counter, saying it accelerates antimicrobial resistance and leads to avoidable deaths.
The FG made this known on Friday at a press briefing to commemorate World Antimicrobial Awareness Week with the theme ‘Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together’.
The government said the consequences of AMR can affect both human and animal health.
It noted that AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity and has inhibited the effective treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi.
AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spreading to others.
WAAW is celebrated from November 18 to 24 November every year.
Speaking at the briefing, the Chair, of Nigeria Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination Committee, Dr. Tochi Okwor said buying antibiotics without prescription fuels antimicrobial resistance.
She said, “The dangers of buying antibiotics over the counter are many. You are not sure if the antibiotics you are buying is the right one for what is wrong with you. For you to be sure of the antibiotics to take, your sample has to be taken in the lab and it is in the lab that the organism causing the infection is known.
“How do you know the dose to take? Who monitors the dosage you take? You have to be advised on the dose to take and you have to be monitored by an expert.
“The best way to take antibiotics is to go to the hospital, have a health worker check you and take your sample, have your result come out in a timely manner and use what we call antibiotics formulary, we have guidelines of antibiotics to prescribe according to the specific guidelines.”
She added that the government has developed a national antimicrobial resistance action plan in 2017 to aid the monitoring of the nation’s progress in reducing AMR.
“We have built human capacity in the area of ability to make a diagnosis. We have built human capacity, so we now have a national surveillance site for tracking antimicrobial resistance in the country and we have well-established labs that are quality assured and manned by competent well trained human resources,” Okwor added.
She noted that available projections suggest that by 2050, AMR could cost $300 billion to over $1 trillion annually globally.
She said in Nigeria, seven out of 10 persons in the community access antibiotics outside licensed health facilities or pharmacies while many patients in the hospitals are over-prescribed antibiotics that have a higher risk of bacterial resistance selection (above the 60 per cent target set by WHO).
“In the animal health sector, antimicrobials are available in the open markets without restriction, hence the misuse of these products especially in food-producing animals. Residues of these antimicrobials in eggs, milk, and meat, when consumed by humans can potentially cause cancers, allergies, and mutations,” she added.
Also, a representative of the Chief Veterinary Officer of Nigeria, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. James Balami said it was estimated that by 2050, 10 million worldwide deaths could result from antibiotic resistance, making it deadlier than cancer.
Balami said, “It is estimated that about 70 per cent of antimicrobial agents sold in the world are used in the animal health sector. In 2020, about 1.8 million tons of active ingredients were imported for use in animals from eight classes of antimicrobials.
“Most classes of antimicrobial agents used in animals are also used in humans such as tetracyclines, aminoglycosides, penicillins, macrolides, sulfonamides, and fluoroquinolones among others.
“The misuse and overuse of antibiotics in food animals predisposes to residues in animal products such as meat, milk and eggs. Residues of antimicrobials in foods are potentially allergenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic. Furthermore, inadequate clean water and poor biosecurity measures in livestock production increase the risk of disease introduction and spread which in turn increases the need for antimicrobials. Poor adherence to vaccination against preventable diseases also exposes terrestrial and aquatic animal species to diseases hence the need for treatment with antimicrobials. ”
The event was organised by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control in collaboration with other MDAs and other development partners.
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