Islamabad: A recent study has sounded alarm bells over the number of antibiotics being taken on average by Pakistanis, which has increased by a whopping 65 per cent over the last 16 years.

The daily dosage per person (DDD) in the country witnessed a surge from 16.2 DDD to 19.6 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants, according to a report published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) scientific journal on March 26, 2018.

Antibiotic consumption in Pakistan between 2000 and 2015 increased 65 per cent from 800 million defined daily doses (DDD) to 1.3 billion DDD, the report said.

The study is titled ‘Global Increase and Geographic Convergence in Antibiotic Consumption between 2000 and 2015.’

The study found that Pakistan was the third highest consumer of antibiotics after India and China among the 76 low- and middle-income countries it surveyed.

The dosage in India was the highest with an increase of 103 per cent, whereas there was a 70 per cent rise in China since 2000.

Globally, the use of antibiotics saw a 65 per cent surge between 2000 and 2015.

Without fresh interventions, the use of antibiotics could rise more than 200 per cent by 2030, warns the report.

The dramatic rise in antibiotic consumption is a highly disturbing trend and a global health threat, according to health experts.

Talking to Gulf News, Dr Mohammad Usman, a microbiologist at Shifa International Hospital, said “popping too many antibiotics increases the risk of bacteria becoming resistant to the drugs which is called antibiotic resistance.”

An estimated 700,000 people around the world currently die due to antibiotic resistance each year.

“Antibiotics use in Pakistan is higher as many doctors prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics without proper diagnosis”, Usman said, adding this was why a growing number of infections — such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea — are becoming difficult to treat as the antibiotics become less effective.

“Most viral infections don’t even require antibiotics” he stressed.

Dr Mohammad Jabran Nawaz summed up the challenge in Pakistan, saying: “There is a culture of misuse of antibiotics such as self-medication, quackery and over-prescription to treat simple infections such as flu. Self-medication which is common in Pakistan needs to stop immediately as the World Health Organisation also suggests people should only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health care professional.”

“Ignorance on the part of patients may be fuelling the rise of antibiotic resistance but it’s the responsibility of government, media and health care professionals to educate the masses and strictly control the non-prescription sales of antibiotics” Dr Jabran told Gulf News.

To prevent the misuse of antibiotics, Medical Microbiology and Infectious Disease Society of Pakistan (MMIDSP) initiated an awareness campaign in March 2018 to inform both the public and health care community about the about overuse and adverse effects of antibiotics.

Without urgent action, deadly antibiotic resistance is predicted to kill 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050, surpassing cancer, as the world is heading towards a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill” according to WHO.

Eliminating overuse of antibiotics should be “a priority for every country” given the current health crisis, Usman said.