Qatar’s healthcare providers must do more to counter an increase in antibiotic resistance in the country, doctors at Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC) have said.
Specifically, primary healthcare clinics and the private healthcare sector must stop needlessly prescribing the drugs to their patients, and work to curb their improper use, said Dr. Hussam Al Soub, senior consultant at HMC’s Infectious Diseases Unit.
Studies have shown that prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily or giving them to patients who fail to complete a course can cause some bacteria to become resistant to the medicines altogether.
In a statement, Al Soub said:
“Microorganisms exposed to antimicrobial drugs adapt to the molecules of these drugs and develop resistant traits so that standard treatments become increasingly ineffective.
This results in an increased risk of serious illness and death among patients with infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria or pathogens.”
He added that in Qatar, one of the biggest problems is the frequent prescription of antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections like the common cold, which are mostly caused by viruses rather than bacteria, and therefore not helped by antibiotics.
He said that Qatar had seen an increase in antibiotic resistance over the past few years, for which the “main driving force” was the abuse or overuse of antibiotics.
In the past, Qatar officials have temporarily shut down pharmacies for selling antibiotics and other drugs without a prescription.
HMC’s call to action echoes a similar appeal made last year, in which doctors urged residents to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle to fight disease, and work to prevent illness by washing hands, handling food properly and avoiding close contact with sick people who are contagious.
But this year, the entity has also established an Antimicrobial Stewardship Program to help ensure the drugs are only prescribed where clinically necessary, both in hospitals and in medical clinics across the country.
The new program will focus on enforcing rules that prohibit the sale of antibiotics without prescription, more education for doctors on their use and prevention of infection in hospitals.
However, a recent Qatar University study found that a lack of infectious disease specialists and proper training of healthcare providers in the country was limiting the effectiveness of the program.