Nearly half of all antibiotic prescriptions in Qatar’s private clinics are for illnesses that cannot be cured with such drugs, a new report has found.
According to the study, some 45 percent of 75,000 prescriptions studied were for viral infections.
Antibiotics are ineffective against these illnesses.
The study, which zeroed in on the dangers of antibiotic misuse, was conducted over a 1.5-year period from May 2014 to December 2015.
It was spearheaded by Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC), Qatar University (QU) and the Ministry of Public Health, and recently published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The results likely won’t come as a surprise to many residents, as HMC has long warned of a rise in drug-resistant infections in the country.
It has also been urging healthcare providers to curb the improper usage of antibiotics.
In a statement yesterday, Prof. Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, Chairman of Internal Medicine for HMC, highlighted the dangers of the practice:
“Antibiotics are one of the most powerful tools we have to fight life-threatening infections. They can successfully combat infections that used to be fatal, like bacterial pneumonia,” he said.
“However, the misuse, including the overuse, of antibiotics promotes antibiotic resistance. If we continue to use them inappropriately, we will undermine our ability to treat patients with deadly infections and diseases.”
Patients can protect their health by not asking for antibiotics when they come down with common infections caused by viruses, such as coughs, colds or the flu, Abou-Samra said.
He added that if a patient is prescribed an antibiotic, they must be sure to take the entire course.
“Sometimes a patient will start to feel better before all the bacteria have been destroyed and sometimes stop taking their medication.
Depending on the medical condition, antibiotics usually have to be taken for several days or sometimes even weeks before the infection clears up,” he said.
Meanwhile, HMC continues to work on the issue from the healthcare side of things.
In 2015 for example, it established an Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. This was to help ensure antibiotics are only prescribed where clinically necessary, both in hospitals and in medical clinics across Qatar.
But a QU study found that a lack of infectious disease specialists and proper training of healthcare providers was limiting the effectiveness of the program.