Antibiotic compliance key to fight ‘superbug’ in PH
ARE WE in big danger?
The Philippines can very well be the next destination of the “superbug,” a powerful bacterium that carries resistance genes. Health experts from the world over have sounded the alarm that it has already spread to Southeast Asia, Europe and North America. Health agencies like the World Health Organization and the local Department of Health have expressed concern over superbug and its frightening potential to cause a pandemic.
To date superbug is not curable by any known medicine while being resistant to the most commonly prescribed antibiotics, including carbapenems, the most powerful antibiotics created by medical science.
The superbug may be developed inside the human body when patients do not properly use antibiotics. These are especially life-threatening when they bear the New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (or NDM-1). Beta-lactamase is an enzyme produced by superbugs that neutralizes antibiotics.
“While antibiotics are very effective in killing bacteria, proper use is crucial. When antibiotics are used in the wrong way, not all of the bacteria are killed—the surviving bacteria then have the chance to develop mutations that make them resistant to antibiotics,” said Maria Victoria Encarnacion, marketing director of Watsons Philippines in an exclusive interview with Inquirer Science/Health.
Starts with self-medication
Antibiotic misuse usually starts with self-medication and includes taking the wrong type of antibiotics, skipping doses recommended by doctors or lessening the number of days of antibiotic ingestion when patients feel relief. Doing any of the above—antibiotic under dosage or over dosage—may only cause bacteria to mutate to become larger and more powerful and become the dreaded superbug.
“Widespread misuse of antibiotics in the Philippines, if not stopped, will eventually create new strains of superbugs that will have no cure, endangering us all,” Encarnacion furthered. There are basic steps to take on how to keep the resistant bacteria at bay.
First is to seek professional help—consult a doctor when buying antibiotics. While doctor’s fees may cost us an arm and leg, it is best to see a doctor to guide us on the right antibiotics to take.
“Allergic reactions are common to self-medicating people and it can cause death,” Encarnacion warned. Relying on our own judgment or the advice of friends and relatives is similarly fatal.
“What works for one doesn’t mean it can cure the other too. Our bodies respond differently. We tend to believe that all antibiotics are one and the same. Some even recycle old prescriptions and take the same antibiotics for every sickness that we get.”
Taking the wrong type of antibiotic may fail to kill the infectious bacteria inside the body. These surviving bacteria may develop resistance to antibiotics, mutating to what is now known as superbug.
Encarnacion also highlighted that compliance is key. See to it to finish the entire dosage as prescribed by the doctor.
“Common to us Filipinos is the practice of taking the right antibiotics but failing to complete the entire recommended dosage. Once we feel better, we believe we’re already cured so we stop taking medicine.”
She observed that this misconception runs among most Filipinos who are scrimping on their next antibiotics purchases. “Feeling better, we fail to recognize that there are still surviving bacteria in our bodies. Noncompliance will allow surviving bacteria to become superbugs.”
Self-medication or taking antibiotics on wrong dosages while fatal is also a waste of money because it can lead to more serious health problems and the threat of a superbug.
For its part, Watsons Philippines recently launched its campaign for antibiotic compliance. Through Watsons stores nationwide, patients can seek help from its well- trained pharmacists for guide on the proper use of their prescribed antibiotics.
In cooperation with pharmaceutical firm Unilab, Watsons Pharmacy has developed the Antibiotic Compliance Packs. The packs consist of the most common antibiotics for common infections, such as respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infection and soft tissue infection. These medicines are priced 10 percent lower than leading generic brands and up to 60 percent lower than leading name brands.