WATSONS PHARMACY and pharmaceutical manufacturer UNILAB launched the antibiotics Compliance Pack to promote and teach proper antibiotic use to Filipinos and to help prevent the emergence of superbugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria). Antibiotics Compliance Packs are now being sold exclusively in all outlets of WATSONS PHARMACY.
The Compliance Packs contain prepackaged antibiotics in amounts that are usually prescribed by doctors to patients. They are priced forty to sixty percent lower compared to multi-national brands. The antibiotics in these packs are of guaranteed quality and effectiveness, sourced from UNILAB.
“When we heard about the project (antibiotics Compliance Packs) we agreed right away to be part of it. That’s because making medicines more affordable to more Filipinos is an advocacy of UNILAB,” said Atty. Jose Maria Ochave, Corporate VP for Business Development Group, UNILAB.
Ochave said that UNILAB keeps improving its initiative in lowering the prices of its medicine. It manufactures and markets off-patent pharmaceuticals that are just as effective, yet more affordable, compared to equivalent branded drugs. The antibiotics manufactured by UNILAB, which cost forty to sixty percent lower than multinational brands, are packaged in the Compliance Packs.
According to Lyle Joseph Morrell, Health Business Unit Head of WATSONS, the lower prices of quality antibiotics being sold in Compliance Packs will help patients use antibiotics more properly.
As an example, Morrell mentioned Amoxicillin 500mg, the most basic type of antibiotic used to treat patients with community acquired infections. “A full dosage of Amoxicillin 500mg costs P273 if one buys from a multinational brand. On the other hand, a full dose of Amoxicillin 500mg in a Compliance Pack costs only P110. That’s already a savings of 60 percent if the consumer buys the Compliance Pack,” said Morrell.
During the launch, a lecture on improper antibiotic use and superbugs– antibiotic-resistant bacteria that no longer treatable by the antibiotics being used today–was presented Dr. Rontgene M. Solante, president of the Philippines Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.
According to Dr. Solante, the number one cause of superbugs emergence is improper use of antibiotics. Superbugs are. “If we keep using antibiotics improperly, the day may come when our antibiotics no longer work against bacterial infections—we will have an infectious disease apocalypse that will endanger the human race,” says Dr. Solante.
Dr. Solante explained in his presentation how ordinary bacteria become superbugs. He said that when the wrong antibiotic is used at a wrong dosage, the bacteria that survive are able to mutate: changing their chemical and cellular structure so that when they are exposed to an antibiotic, it no longer affects them.
He said that four practices antibiotic misuse, which are unfortunately common in the Philippines, promote the emergence of superbugs. These include:
Self-medication. It’s risky to self-medicate, that is, to use antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription. When a patient buys antibiotics without a consulting a doctor, using an old prescription, or following the advice of relatives and friends, it’s likely that the antibiotics purchased will be the wrong ones, and will also be used at an improper dosage
Skipping a dose of antibiotic. Patients who miss a dose or several doses of antibiotic are allowing bacteria to recover from the antibiotic’s effects. There’s also a risk that the infection resurge
Stopping the antibiotic dose too early. There are patients who stop taking antibiotics once they feel better. Others are unable to buy all the antibiotics prescribed because they don’t have enough money.
Using antibiotics like over the counter drugs. Antibiotics are powerful medications that must be used only under a doctor’s supervision. Sadly, there are patients who think antibiotics are used to relieve symptoms like fever, body pain, coughs and colds. Such symptoms are usually caused by a viral infection. Antibiotics are not used to treat viral infections.
Instead, viral infections are best cured by taking enough rest, drinking lots of fluids, taking vitamins and supplements; using lozenges and other remedies. These remedies plus the body’s immune system are usually enough to fight off a viral infection.
Some patients, however, do not know the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection. So they antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, just like over-the-counter medicines—and some drugstores allow patients to do this. Dr. Solante cited a medical study that found that 66% of antibiotics sold in Manila were sold without a prescription.
“These practices, when done often enough, lead to the emergence of superbugs. In the Philippines, two types of bacteria—one that causes gonorrhea and another that causes tuberculosis, are already antibiotic-resistant,” he said.
Antibiotics compliance campaign
The antibiotics Compliance Pack is part of a joint campaign for antibiotics compliance being conducted by WATSONS and UNILAB. The Compliance Packs sold in WATSONS stores are one way of educating the public about proper antibiotic use and will help patients use antibiotics properly.
Since the antibiotics are already pre-packaged in their proper amounts, they are more convenient and accurate to use. The lower price and high quality of the Compliance Packs
antibiotics, as provided by UNILAB, also make them more affordable to patients.
WATSONS also helps in the campaign by making sure its store pharmacists are well-trained and knowledgeable in the proper use of antibiotics. Patients who are buying antibiotics in WATSONS stores are assisted by pharmacists and taught how to use antibiotics properly.
If a patient wants to buy unprescribed antibiotics but obviously only has cold symptoms or a viral infection, which do not need antibiotics to be cured—then the pharmacist may either point out that the patient does not need antibiotics yet, or tell the patient to consult a doctor first. The pharmacist may also recommend over-the-counter medicine to relieve a patient’s symptoms.
Solante said that the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a possible “infectious disease apocalypse” is a serious health concern in the Philippines and the rest of the world. He said that a campaign like the one by WATSONS and UNILAB is a good idea and will help efforts of doctors, researchers and the Department of Health in preventing superbug emergence in the country.