UAE private hospitals take lead on the over-prescription of antibiotics

NMC Hospitals launches new programme to help advise medics

Doctors at NMC Hospitals in the UAE are being offered round-the-clock support and advice to curb the misuse of antibiotics in clinics. The National
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Private hospitals in the UAE are taking the lead in the battle to stop the inappropriate prescription of antibiotics.

NMC Hospitals, the largest healthcare provider in the Emirates, has launched a new programme to help advise medics on their correct issue.

Under the scheme, doctors will have access to a round-the-clock helpline staffed by specialists in their field.

A new set of clinical practice guidelines has also been developed with a specific focus on antibiotic use.

Dr Asim Malik, of Royal Hospital, Khalifa City, said the overprescription of antibiotics was a major factor in growing instances of drug resistant bacteria.

Health professionals fear the trend, left unchecked, could lead to a scenario where antibiotics are completely redundant against major infectious disease.

“Evolving resistance in a variety of common bacteria is a universal problem,” said Dr Malik.

“Diseases caused by resistant bacteria are responsible for increases in morbidity, mortality and direct cost in healthcare. The result is an increased overall cost of care.”

The World Health Organisation has warned that unless antibiotic use is reduced and new drugs discovered, superbugs could kill more people than cancer by 2050.

Doctors around the world have reported increasing resistance to existing drugs, an issue that could result in even routine surgical procedures carrying serious risk of infection.

The problem is widely acknowledged to have been exacerbated by the unregulated prescription of antibiotics and their inappropriate use to fight viral infections.

It is almost 30 years since the last effective antibiotic was discovered, with pharmaceutical firms reluctant to fund research due it being seen as less profitable than other fields.

“The need for novel classes of antibiotics across the globe is urgent as the resistance is evolving constantly,” said Dr Malik.

“The currently available antibiotic classes are losing the battle against resistant pathogens due to a variety of factors.

“These are mainly incorrect indication, dosage and duration.”

In the UK, the introduction of a programme involving electronic alerts to advise GPs not to issue antibiotics for coughs and colds had dramatic results.

Doctors were also given monthly reports on their use of drugs, as well as a six-minute video designed to further reduce prescription rates.

Details of the initiative were published in the British Medical Journal and results indicated a cut in prescriptions by 12 per cent.

“Generally, overuse and misuse of antibiotics is the problem,” said Dr Malik.

“We know drug resistant bacteria spread fast, and there is a less than stringent compliance to infection prevention and control measures.

“A lack of meticulous hand hygiene at healthcare facilities is also a recognised contributory factor to evolving drug resistance.”

The Ministry of Health and Prevention was unavailable for comment.