The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director has called on health professionals to prescribe antimicrobials responsibly amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing a press briefing last week, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne said health care practitioners should prescribe antibiotics only when needed because misusing the drugs is harmful to patients and public health.
She stated that countries should ensure that people can’t buy antimicrobials over the counter without a doctor’s prescription.
Etienne noted that countries of the Americas are reporting drug-resistant infection surges, likely due to the unprecedented misuse of antimicrobial drugs in the treatment of COVID-19.
“Throughout this pandemic, we have taken the power of antimicrobials for granted,” the Director said.
“And while it may be months or even years until we see the full impact of their misuse and overuse, we cannot afford to wait to take action,” Etienne told last week’s press briefing.
She disclosed that data from hospital settings in the region indicated that 90-100% of hospitalised patients received an antimicrobial as part of their COVID treatment.
But Etienne observed that only 7% of the patients had a secondary infection that required the drugs.
Etienne explained that antimicrobials misuse has also occurred outside of hospital settings.
“Drugs such as Ivermectin, Azithromycin, and Chloroquine were broadly used as unproven treatments, even after we had strong evidence that they had no benefit to COVID patients,” she asserted.
The PAHO Director also called for better surveillance, stewardship, and drugs to preserve the power of antimicrobials.