The Directorate General of Drug Administration (DGDA) has decided to have the packaging of antibiotics marked red to increase their rational use, as a study has found an average of 31%-67% of bacteria in Bangladesh are resistant to antibiotics.
About 67.3% of pharmacy retailers cannot identify antibiotics from regular medicines properly as they do not have adequate knowledge about antimicrobial drugs, finds the study by the DGDA.
SM Sabrina Yasmin, an assistant director at DGDA, disclosed the information at a dissemination programme in Dhaka on Wednesday on the current AMR (antimicrobial resistance) patterns and AMU (antimicrobial use) trends in Bangladesh.
"Antibiotic packaging labels will be changed to make it easier for vendors to identify antibiotic drugs," she said.
"Manufacturers will put the red identification mark with the text 'Antibiotic' and the message 'Do not use without a prescription of a registered physician'," she added.
Sabrina Yasmin said pharmaceutical companies will release the new packaging in the market within the next six months.
The survey was conducted among 427 medicine retailers in eight divisions across the country.
In this programme, the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) and the Communicable Disease Control Programme under the Directorate General of Health Services, the Ministry of Health, and Family Welfare of Bangladesh, shared key findings from the Capturing data on Antimicrobial resistance Patterns and Trends in Use in Regions of Asia (CAPTURA) project.
The CAPTURA research has been collecting and analysing the last four years of retrospective AMR / U data from 34 laboratories – 11 public and 23 private – and five pharmacies – all private model pharmacies.
According to research findings, 31%-67% of germs are multi-drug resistant, meaning antimicrobial drugs are ineffective against them.
The study also found that the use of antibiotics which should be used with caution according to the WHO Watch Group and Reserve Group, is 70% -80% in Bangladesh. However, the use of these drugs should be limited to 40%.
No major change in susceptibility patterns was observed in E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus in the country over the last four years, it added.
DGDA Director General, Major General Mohammad Yusuf, said a Tk20,000 fine has already been proposed if any vendor sells antibiotics without a prescription.
"We will be able to use the findings from the CAPTURA project to establish an improved surveillance system in Bangladesh," he added.
"No clinicians should be able to prescribe antibiotics without reason. Our goal is to reduce antibiotics being consumed without prescriptions and to stop prescriptions being written by non-clinicians" said Professor Dr Ahmedul Kabir, ADG (Administration) at DGHS.
"Identifying the gaps and opportunities for improvement in collecting, sharing, and using enhanced-quality data is an essential resource for AMR surveillance – a key component of the CAPTURA project," said Dr Nimesh Poudyal, Project Lead of CAPTURA.
"We're grateful to the Government of Bangladesh for their partnership in this important effort to develop the groundwork for effective and sustainable strategies to stop the spread of antimicrobial resistance, as well as to our partner laboratories and pharmacies for their close engagement," he added.