Indians excessively used antibiotics like Azithromycin during and before the COVID-19 pandemic, a study published in the Lancet Regional Health-Southeast Asia journal. According to the study, most of these drugs were not approved by the central drug regulator and called for “significant policy and regulatory reform”.
The findings of the study were published in the journal last week. The study also pointed out that inappropriate use of antibiotics is a significant driver of antibiotic resistance in India.
“Although the per-capita private-sector consumption rate of antibiotics in India is relatively low compared to many countries, India consumes a large volume of broad-spectrum antibiotics that should ideally be used sparingly,” the study said.
While conducting the study, the scientists analysed the data from PharmaTrac, a private-sector drug sales dataset gathered from a panel of 9,000 that are representative of sales figures across India. Moreover, the metric used defined daily dose (DDD) to calculate the per capita private-sector consumption of antibiotics.
The findings showed that the total DDDs consumed in 2019 was 5,071 million, translating to 10.4 DDD per 1,000 population per day.
“Twelve antibiotic molecules constituted 75% of the total consumption. Azithromycin was the most consumed antibiotic molecule (640 million DDDs, 12.6%), followed by cefixime (516 million, 10.2%). Azithromycin 500mg tablet was the most consumed formulation (384 million DDDs, 7.6%), followed by cefixime 200 mg tablet (331 million DDDs, 6.5%),” the researchers said in the study.
The study also revealed that there were 1,098 unique formulations and 10,100 unique products (brands) of antibiotics in India.
Excessive use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance which is a serious public health challenge across the world. The Lancet study also stated that “although antibiotic resistance initially appeared in hospitals in the 1950s, it was the growing inappropriate use of antibiotics over the subsequent decades that contributed to the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria making the cure of many infections more expensive and, in some cases, impossible.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a growing number of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis – are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective. Moreover, this resistance also leads to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.