Federal Government, WHO and partners strategize to tackle antibiotic abuse in Nigeria

Abuja, 16 November 2018 - As Nigeria observes 2018 World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) with the theme “Think Twice, Seek Advice, “Government has reiterated its commitment to tackle the scourge of antibiotic abuse and resistance. 

In collaboration with agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO), Department for International Development (DfiD), the World Bank, United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and the Bill & Melinda Gates (BMGF), the government is rolling out a national action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across the country.

“A lot of people believe it is cheaper to just walk into a pharmacy, explain symptoms and seek medication. Meanwhile, pharmacies in Nigeria need to make their money and so they readily meet the demands of customers by prescribing drugs based on described symptoms, “says Adako Lawrence, Abuja-based pharmacist. He added that at least one in every five patients prefer to go directly to a pharmacy to purchase drugs and self-medicate than to a hospital for proper consultation and treatment.

According to Adako,“95% of the drugs they are given are antibiotics such as Ampiclox, Ampicillin, Metronidazole, Tetracycline and Ciprofloxacin.  These are usually supposed to be prescribed by a medical doctor as they can have side effects on organs like the liver and kidney if taken incorrectly.”

Adako further states that in humans, some of these drugs inhibit the growth of natural flora that protect the body from diseases like yeast infections, while in children some antibiotics administered in wrong doses can cause severe cases of bronchitis and other diseases. Other serious side effects of antibiotic abuse include AMR, a case when bacteria become resistant to active ingredients in medicines. The resistant bacteria may infect humans and animals, making infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhoea harder to treat.

Streamlining drug distribution 
For his part, Mr Mashood Lawal, the Head of the Food and Drug Services department, Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) said Nigeria is currently streamlining the distribution of drugs through the National Drug Distribution Guideline (NDDG). 

“This is being facilitated through with the Coordinated Wholesale Centres (CWC) project. At present, four (4) centres are under construction in Lagos, Kano, Abia, and Anambra States; and four (4) new ones have just been approved. These are to replace the open drug market; and make the monitoring of drug distribution easy and ensure a more satisfactory system,” he said. 

“Agencies such as National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) and other agencies of government are working to track and monitor distribution of drugs in the country. NAFDAC is also working to ensure that only registered drugs are in circulation in the country.” 

Mr Lawal also mentioned that Government is working to strengthen the prescription policy. 

“We are working to ensure that patients are only given antibiotics once they present a prescription. The PCN is also intensifying monitoring and enforcement to ensure that only licensed pharmacies are operating and dispensing prescribed drugs,” he added.

WHO prioritizes battle against misuse of antibiotics
WHO in Nigeria has prioritized the fight against antibiotic resistance and working with Federal Government and partners developed and are implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) to combat antibiotic resistance as well as generate reliable data for action.

Dr Clement Lugala, the Officer in Charge committed that WHO in Nigeria  will continue providing support to Nigeria to build resilient health systems through stronger regulations and policies which promote the appropriate use of quality antibiotics, as well as the development of an antimicrobial resistance surveillance system including capacity building in the laboratory for Antimicrobial Susceptibility Testing. 

During a press briefing, Dr Lugala said, “the misuse of antibiotics puts all Nigerians at risk. I urge everyone to think twice and seek advice from qualified health professionals before taking antibiotics.”

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