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17-11-2023

Proper use of antibiotics helps prevent bacterial resistance

While celebrating the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, the health insurance funds remind that antibiotics can save lives in patients with severe bacterial infections. However, if taken too often and when they are not needed, antibiotics can become ineffective. Antibiotics used incorrectly cause bacterial resistance. Experts are worried that this could lead to the emergence of pathogens that will not respond to any antibiotics. This will lead to an increase in serious illnesses, the spread of infections and the risk of death.

Specialists of the health insurance funds warn that antibiotics are used only to treat diseases caused by bacteria. They do not treat viral infections. For example, antibiotics do not help when having flu, because it is caused by a virus. People with flu can be treated with antiviral medications, which are different from antibiotics. Also, antibiotics are not helpful for colds, which are mostly (90%) caused by viruses. Antibiotics are also not useful in many cases of sore throats and acute bronchitis, as these diseases are usually also caused by viruses.

The use of antibiotics is considered irrational in all cases when a patient does not have a bacterial infection, or is not at high risk of developing one, and is treated with inappropriately selected antibiotics, at suboptimal doses, or for a too short period.

Medicines Committee at Šiauliai Territorial Health Insurance Fund (THIF), monitors the prescription of reimbursable antibacterial medicines to children in its area of activity in order to promote the rational use of antibiotics. This Committee also provides recommendations on the rational use of reimbursed antibiotics to treatment institutions, organises conferences and trainings to improve the knowledge of healthcare and pharmaceutical specialists on the rational use of reimbursable antibiotics.

The dissemination of information on the rational use of antibiotics by the Medicines Committee of Šiauliai THIF helped to achieve positive results, the number of cases of irrational antibiotic prescriptions for children has decreased recently. For instance, six years ago, almost one in two children, attending a clinic or a family medicine centre, received reimbursable antibiotics, while last year, only one in four children aged between 1 and 18 received antimicrobial treatment.

Another positive trend is the reduction in irrational prescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics to children. Doctors were more likely to prescribe narrow-spectrum antibiotics to children instead. Medicines Committee of Šiauliai THIF has established that prescribing antibiotics (especially broad-spectrum antibiotics) to children in the first year of life increases the risk of recurrent infections. Children treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics are less resistant to infectious diseases later in life and are more likely to be hospitalised.

Dalia Ozolienė, a head of the Control Division of Šiauliai THIF and a member of the Medicines Committee, calls for more rational prescription and use of antibacterial medicines. “Antibiotics must be used very purposefully and only when needed. When prescribing an antibiotic, a doctor needs to be sure that this is the medicine needed. Narrow-spectrum antibiotics are safer”, the specialist highlights.

She explained that ideally, when a doctor prescribes a medicine after identifying the causative organism, he or she chooses the exact medicine that works on the bacteria that caused the disease.

A family doctor can use a C-reactive protein (CRP) test and a rapid streptococcal antigen test to help determine whether antibiotics are needed, and which ones. Ideally, therefore, medicine specialists should prescribe medications after testing and identifying the causative agent.

Information of Šiauliai Territorial Health Insurance Fund

(Freepic photo)

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