The Ministry of Health says the alarming levels of drug resistance in the country are turning into a serious public health threat.
Minister of Health, Sylvia Masebo, said there is a growing trend of Zambians abusing prescribed and unprescribed drugs, a situation that is reducing the efficacy of the medicines to fight the various germs they are intended to fight.
Ms Masebo said health authorities in the country have evidence suggesting that drug resistance is increasing at alarming rates in the country and needs to be addressed.
“The excessive and inappropriate use of medicines used to fight various germs together with poor infection control practices have progressively turned drug resistance into a massive threat for humankind,” said Ms Masebo.
She said the drug resistance will negatively impact health authorities’ ability to combat diseases and wipe out historic gains attained in the past in fighting infectious diseases.
Ms Masebo said the rising drug resistance also has the potential to harm people’s health and negatively impact the country’s economy.
The minister was speaking during the anti-microbial sensitisation week aimed at bringing awareness about the dangers of drug resistance.
Ms Masebo pointed out that drug resistance has become a global problem.
She said there is a report indicating that one million deaths across the world were as a result of treatment failure due to drug resistance of medicines while five million deaths worldwide were attributed to bacterial drug resistance.
She said recent studies showed that Sub Saharan Africa is heavily and adversely affected by diseases and bacterial infections and that 10 percent of the 1.2 million deaths in the region are due to bacterial resistance deaths.
Ms Masebo said 10 million people could die annually by 2050 if the rising problem of drug resistance is not addressed in Zambia and the Sub Saharan region.
She reiterated that government remains committed to ensuring that the drug resistance problem is addressed in order to safeguard public health.
The minister has meanwhile taken to task the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA) to explain why there is perpetual sale of drugs especially antibiotics over the counter.
ZAMRA Acting Director General, Makomani Siyanga, explained that his organiaation does not support or permit the sale of drugs such as antibiotics without a prescription.
Mr Siyanga said selling of unprescribed drugs over the counter is an offence under the laws of the country and warned pharmacies against the practice.
He said the authority will not hesitate to withdraw licenses of pharmacies going against the law and prosecute the offenders.
Meanwhile, Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) Director General, Roma Chilengi, said his institute is monitoring the situation to ensure that appropriate interventions and measures are undertaken to help address the drug resistance problem.
Professor Chilengi named some of the commonly abused drugs that are becoming resistant to germs and diseases as Ampicillin, Azithromycin and Penicillin.
He explained that the drugs are following in the path of drugs such as Chloroquine to which malaria became resistant.
And Director for Infectious Diseases, Loyd Mulenga, warned the public against taking expired or drugs that are about to expire.
Professor Mulenga said taking expired drugs is not correct as they can harm the body.
He said efforts are being made through laboratory surveillance to ensure that drugs being put on the market and dispensed to patients have the efficacy to treat the various germs and diseases.
And the World Health Organisation (WHO) said it has developed a global action plan to help reduce the growing global problem of drug resistance.
WHO Zambia National Population Officer, Fred Masaninga, said the organisation is working on strengthening the laboratory capacity to undertake drug resistance surveillance.
He said WHO is further mobilising resources to help the Zambia National Public Health Institute to scale up its awareness campaign on drug resistance.