Vietnam losing war on bacteria due to overuse of antibiotics: doctors

By VnExpress   November 20, 2016 | 11:31 pm PT
Many patients now only respond to the strongest, most expensive antibiotics available.

It is almost as easy to buy antibiotics in Vietnam as it is to buy a candy at a convenience store, and doctors warn that this trend is putting the entire healthcare system at risk.

Dr. Nguyen Hoai Nam, a lecturer at Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University, said at a conference last week that the antibiotics trade in Vietnam “is in extreme disarray”.

Drug resistance has become more commonplace and some drugs have been rendered useless by superbugs just a month after being made available, he said.

No prescriptions are issued for 88 percent of antibiotics sales in cities and 91 percent in rural areas, according to a survey released by the ministry. Many pharmacies also ignore a regulation that says they should not sell prescription drugs without a prescription.

Health experts said that sometimes it’s the doctors who are at fault for prescribing antibiotics when they're not needed, for example, the common cold.

Nam said some doctors, especially those running private clinics, prescribe unnecessarily strong antibiotics to impress patients with the speed in which they can cure them.

“They try to win fame and customers, but ignore safety issues,” he said, as cited by local newspaper Thanh Nien.

Pham Khanh Phong Lan, deputy director of HCMC’s Health Department, said antibiotics now account for 17 percent of medical expenses in Vietnam, which now has to resort to third and fourth generations of antibiotics while many developed countries are still using the first generation.

The World Health Organization has listed Vietnam among the countries with the highest rate of antibiotic-resistant infections, standing at 33 percent of patients.

Nguyen Van Vinh Chau, director of HCMC Tropical Diseases Hospital, said many patients under emergency treatment at the hospital are infected with bacteria that resist multiple kinds of drugs.

“They can only be cured with the latest, most expensive antibiotics,” Chau said in the Thanh Nien report. “There are bacteria in Vietnam that resist all kinds of antibiotics available.”

Lan from the HCMC health department said that if the problem persists, “it won’t be long until Vietnam has no weapons left to deal with bacteria”.

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