Doha, – Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is cautioning the public about improper antibiotic use, pointing to a landmark study that indicates nearly half of antibiotics prescribed by private clinics in Qatar may be unnecessary. The study, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, highlights that the misuse of antibiotics threatens the usefulness of these important drugs.

A team led by Professor Adeel Ajwad Butt, Vice Chair for Faculty Affairs, Department of Medicine and Director of the Clinical Epidemiology Research Unit at HMC, and including clinicians and researchers from HMC, the Ministry of Public Health and Qatar University, evaluated over 75,000 health insurance claims related to prescriptions for antibiotics and found that 45 percent were for conditions which typically do not require antibiotics.

“We found that most of the inappropriate claims, around 85 percent, were for acute upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), which are caused by viruses and do not require antibiotics,” said Professor Butt.

The study, which examined the pattern of antibiotic prescriptions for outpatients in private clinics in Qatar between May 2014 and December 2015, highlights the importance of not prescribing medications unnecessarily, such as in cases where infections are known to be self-limiting.

Professor Abdul-Badi Abou-Samra, Chairman of Internal Medicine for HMC, added that the improper use of antibiotics accelerates the emergence of drug-resistant infections, which results in an increased risk of serious illness and even death among individuals with infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria or pathogens.

“Antibiotics are one of the most powerful tools we have to fight life-threating infections. They can successfully combat infections that used to be fatal, like bacterial pneumonia. 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,” said Professor Abou-Samra.

Professor Butt noted that in recent years there has been a global increase in antibiotic resistance, compounded by the limited number of new drugs being discovered. He said the driving force for this increase is the abuse or overuse of antibiotics, especially for upper respiratory tract infections.

“Antibiotics are an important tool in relieving symptoms of bacterial infections and can help patients recover faster. However, improper use can cause many different types of bacteria to become unresponsive to antibiotics. In recent years, resistance to antibiotics has become more common and many diseases cannot be treated as well as they could in the past,” added Professor Butt.

Professor Abou-Samra added that it is important for patients to respect their physician’s recommendation, saying that antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not infections caused by viruses.

“Some patients will request an antibiotic for common infections caused by viruses, such as coughs, colds or the flu. Antibiotics are not effective in treating these conditions and strains of streptococcus, which can cause diseases such as strep throat, meningitis and pneumonia are often resistant to antibiotics,” said Professor Abou-Samra.

He added that patients can do their part to prevent antibiotic resistance by being cautious and only taking antibiotics when absolutely necessary and as directed by a physician. He says that if patients are prescribed an antibiotic, it is important to take the entire course as prescribed. “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,” added Professor Abou-Samra. (QNA)

Source: Qatar News Agency