A report by this newspaper on Monday again pierced the myth that we have somewhat of a decently working healthcare sector, albeit from a unique angle. Despite a court directive to stop over-the-counter sale of antibiotics, the health authorities have not only failed to follow up on the order, but seem completely lost at sea as to what to do.
A recent joint study by the Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) and the WHO shows that antibiotics consumption in Bangladesh has increased by 30.81 percent in the last two years. Overuse of antibiotics has given rise to the danger of superbugs throughout the world that cause some seven lakh deaths globally per year. Yet, our health authorities, as if unaware of these facts, have failed to do anything at all to raise awareness among the general populace about the dangers of over- or wrong use of antibiotics.
According to experts, the problem lies in the fact that people don’t know which drugs are antibiotics, meaning, people are taking antibiotics daily without even knowing about it. On April 25, the HC ordered the DGDA to take steps to stop the over-the-counter sale of antibiotics. Accordingly, all that the DGDA has done so far is issue a notice in May to all district commissioners and civil surgeons, followed by a reminder a month later.
Such apathy on the part of the DGDA is completely unacceptable. According to WHO estimates, 10 million people could die from superbugs by 2050 if the overuse of antibiotics go unchecked. And as this newspaper discovered during its investigation, hundreds if not more, stores across the country are selling antibiotics at whim without any doctor’s prescription.
The reason why pharmaceuticals have been able to get away with this practice is the lack of monitoring by the health authorities. It is time for those responsible within the health ministry and DGDA to be held accountable for letting things spiral onto this point. And for the health authorities to finally start doing their job.