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70% of Antibiotics Used Unnecessarily in Pakistan, Antimicrobial Resistance Claims 700,000 Lives: Health Experts

Islamabad: Health experts at the Antimicrobial Stewardship Conference in Karachi have revealed that a staggering 70% of antibiotics in Pakistan are used unnecessarily. This alarming statistic underscores the critical issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the country.

The conference, supported by the National Institute for Health Services Academy, highlighted the devastating global impact of AMR, with experts citing that 5 million people worldwide die annually due to complications arising from it.

Professor Shahzad Ali Khan, Vice Chancellor of Islamabad’s Health Services Academy (HSA), presented a concerning picture of AMR in Pakistan, noting it as the third leading cause of death after cardiovascular diseases and maternal and neonatal disorders. He reported that drug-resistant bacteria cause approximately 300,000 deaths annually in Pakistan, with a total of 700,000 deaths attributed to AMR each year.

Health officials, public health experts, physicians, and policymakers at the event expressed alarm over Pakistan being the third-largest consumer of antibiotics globally, following China and India. In 2023 alone, antibiotics worth Rs126 billion were consumed in Pakistan.

The misuse of antibiotics by doctors, quacks, and the general public was identified as a significant factor contributing to AMR. Prof. Khan emphasized that antibiotics, which have saved millions of lives during world wars and pandemics, are becoming ineffective due to their irrational use.

“Self-medication, unjustified prescription of antibiotics by quacks, taking antibiotics for a shorter duration, and the production of substandard antibiotics by some companies are major causes of antimicrobial resistance,” he added.

Experts at the conference urged the public to refrain from purchasing and using antibiotics without the advice of trained and qualified physicians. They called for stringent measures to control the misuse of antibiotics to combat the growing threat of AMR, which poses a significant public health concern globally and in Pakistan.

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