AUTHORITIES have been recruiting school students to help raise public awareness about overuse of antibiotics as part of a plan to cut cases of drug resistance by half in the next five years.
Excessive or unnecessary use of antibiotics can lead to drug resistance, which has led to many deaths.
Each year, more than 80,000 people in Thailand are found to have developed resistance to antibiotics. Of these patients, between 20,000 and 30,000 will die.
In Saraburi province, secondary school students at Thairath Wittaya 68 School have proven very effective in raising public awareness of the need to use antibiotics reasonably.
“They can successfully raise awareness about rational antibiotics use among local residents, students and their families,” Drug System Monitoring and Development Centre director Dr Niyada Kiatying-Angsulee said at the Antibiotics Awareness Week 2016 forum on Friday.
She said the centre was working with medical practitioners in community hospitals and provincial public health offices in more than 30 provinces to raise awareness of rational antibiotics use among community residents.
“We want them to realise that antibiotics cannot treat the usual sicknesses,” Niyada said.
She said there were examples of antibiotic-free communities where no antibiotics were sold in grocery stores, as the result of cooperation between the centre and community leaders, volunteers and local schools.
Public Health Ministry deputy permanent secretary Dr Kiatipoom Wongrajit said the national strategy to deal with the antibiotic-resistant bacteria situation in Thailand for 2017-2021 has been designed and implemented. This followed Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s instruction for relevant authorities to reduce the number of fatal antibiotics-resistant cases.
“The government expects to reduce the cases of drug resistance from antibiotic use by 50 per cent, and the number of people using antibiotics for themselves and their farm animals will be decreased 20 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively,” he said.
Thai Health Promotion Foundation deputy director Bundit Sornpaisarn said at the Antibiotics Awareness Week 2016 forum that the growing number of Thais who had developed resistance to antibiotics was the result of unnecessary overuse.
“Many Thais buy antibiotics without a prescription and stop taking the medicine when they feel better. Some take lozenges that contain antibiotic substances such as neomycin. As a result, they get infected with drug-resistant bacteria or superbugs, which can kill them,” Bundit said.
Dr Pison Chongtrakul of Chulalongkorn University’s Medical Science Faculty said many medical practitioners still prescribe antibiotics to patients who have a cold and a sore throat, diarrhoea from food poisoning, and bleeding wounds.
Pison said antibiotics do not have any effect on non-bacterial infections such as viruses. They instead will lead to drug-resistant bacteria in the body.
“Most Thais still have false beliefs about antibiotics. Some misunderstand that antibiotics are an anti-inflammatory drug and use them to cure a little sickness that can be healed by itself like a cold with sore throat,” he said.
He said the Public Health Ministry also implemented a policy to reduce antibiotic prescriptions.
University Hospital Network chairman Dr Surasak Leelaudomlipi said all 19 hospitals in the group are promoting rational drug use and are implementing a control on antibiotics prescriptions, in addition to raising awareness about rational drug use among medical service providers and receivers.
Dr Warunee Punpanich Vandepitte, of Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health, said many children develop serious infections from drug-resistant bacteria because of antibiotic overuse.
Foundation for Consumers president Chanpen Wiwat said products containing antibiotics should be removed from the drug list because they also contribute to developing drug-resistant bacteria in the human body.
“Throat lozenges, soap, toothpaste and hand gel that contain antibiotics should be banned because they can lead to drug-resistant bacteria after long use,” she said.