India takes steps against drug resistance

India is trying to get its hands around the issue antibiotic-resistant bugs, a problem that studies have often tied to the manufacture of substandard products.

The government will now require prescriptions for 92 antibiotic and anti-tuberculosis drugs that were previously sold over-the-counter, The Economic Times reports. The drugs will also have to carry a red label warning: "It is dangerous to take this prescription except in accordance with medical advice and not to be sold by retail without the prescription of the registered medical practitioner." Once the new rule is in place, authorities will make spot checks at pharmacies to see that it is being enforced.

Indian authorities are tying the problem to overuse of antibiotics there. But antibiotic-resistant conditions often are tied to patients taking drugs where the ingredients are substandard. It is a particularly vexing issue in Africa.

Two recent studies on the problems there were prepared by the American Enterprise Institute, and published in Research and Reports in Tropical Medicine. The study's lead author, Roger Bate, has researched and written extensively on the issue of substandard drugs in Africa and how they are undermining efforts because they lead to drug resistance. Bates says companies making drugs for World Health Organization programs in Africa that are found three times to have produced substandard products should be booted from participation in the programs. The study found that 13% of drugs made in countries without strict regulations were substandard.

But India has found issues there with substandard drugs often getting into the hands of the poorest people with the worst medical conditions. Recent checks there found a quality failure rate of more than 5%. The Economic Times quotes WHO director general Dr. Margaret Chan as saying the problem is global. "The world is on the brink of losing these miracle cures," Chan said.

- read the Economic Times story

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