Dr. Joy St. John (FP)

Policy makers, the general public, patients, health care practitioners, and the pharmaceutical industry, are being encouraged to partner with Government in its effort to define an effective plan of action to promote the rational use of medicines.

Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Joy St. John, made this point yesterday at the annual Lions Club Health Fair to mark World Health Day, under the theme, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): No Action Today, No Cure Tomorrow.?? It was held at the Manor Lodge Complex, Green Hill, St. Michael.

Dr. St. John noted that the aforementioned stakeholders had a critical role to play in protecting citizens from the negative effects that could arise from the misuse and abuse of antimicrobial agents.

"The presence of antimicrobial resistance creates a scenario in which infections caused by resistant microorganisms often fail to respond to the standard treatment, resulting in prolonged illness and greater risk of death. This period of prolonged illness creates greater opportunity for the resistant microorganisms to spread in our communities.?? As a consequence, many infectious diseases risk becoming uncontrollable and in the worst case scenario, could decimate small, closely knit populations, like that of Barbados, within short periods," she said.

The CMO outlined that when patients did not take the full course of prescribed medication, resistant microorganisms could emerge. In addition, when doctors prescribed antibiotics for viruses such as a cough or cold, this represented the indiscriminate use of medicines, since antibiotics were not effective against viral infections.

The impact of antibiotics in the agri-food industry was also cited as a concern by the official.?? "Antibiotics are frequently available to farmers over the counter and these are administered to animals which are subsequently slaughtered for human consumption. Excessive use of these medicines in animals which are intended for human consumption contributes in no small measure to the development of antimicrobial resistance," Dr. St. John explained.????????

AMR is also making its appearance in the treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections, as well as HIV, with anti-retroviral drugs.

"Barbados’ HIV laboratory is thus equipping itself with the capacity to detect such HIV drug resistance, while the programme works hard to ensure that patients take medications prescribed to minimise emergence of resistant strains.?? HIV staff at LRU have been trained in methods to detect HIV drug resistance in order to allow the implementation of routine HIV drug resistance testing," the senior health official revealed.

Caribbean Program Coordinator and PAHO/WHO Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Dr. Ernest Pate, was also on hand to deliver the World Health Day message.?? He pointed to the development of policies, regulations and the adequate selection and rational use of pharmaceuticals, as some of the ways to reduce AMR.?? He commended the local health Ministry for its efforts in the implementation of a rational pharmaceutical policy.??

"Last month, the Ministry of Health of Barbados organised, with technical support from PAHO/WHO, a consultation for the development of the Barbados National Pharmaceutical Policy.?? Barbados is at the forefront in terms of the use of evidence-based policy making.?? The proposed policy was developed based on the findings of the survey on the pharmaceutical situation, which provided a comprehensive analysis of the access, quality and rational use of medicines in Barbados.?? The study showed that Barbados’ achievement in these areas is extremely good and commendable," Dr. Pate remarked.

According to the WHO, AMR is the resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial medicine to which it was previously sensitive.?? Resistant organisms include bacteria, viruses and some parasites which are able to withstand attack by antimicrobial medicines, such as antibiotics, so that standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and might spread to others.


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