Alarming increase in global use of antibiotics, India is the largest consumer

A research published in a medical journal has sounded an alarm on overuse and misuse of antibiotic drugs

By Aprajita Singh
Published: Monday 14 July 2014


A research published in a medical journal has sounded an alarm on overuse and misuse of antibiotic drugs.

The study, published by a team of researchers from Princeton University in journal Lancet Infectious Diseases last week, has revealed that the consumption of antibiotics around the globe has surged between 2000 and 2010. While globally, the antibiotic use has increased by 36 per cent, India has emerged as the world's largest consumer of antibiotics with a 62 per cent increase in use.  About 76 per cent of this increase has come from developing economies like China, India, Brazil, South Africa and Russia.

The researchers studied consumption of antibiotics in 71 countries and seasonal differences and patterns in consumption in 63 of them. “Despite a fall in usage of antibiotics over the last decade, the US still has the greatest per capita consumption rates, more than double of that in India,” said the study.

Some good and bad news
The findings of the study indicate an increase in antibacterial usage in developing countries, implying that more people had access to medicine. But unfortunately, most of the use was not monitored by health officials. An alarming increase was also seen in the consumption of last-resort drugs such as the kind belonging to carbapenem class, which are broad spectrum antibiotics prescribed only for diseases for which there is no other known cure.  

Researchers have also found that antibacterial medication was being misused at times. For example, in most countries, usage peaked around flu season. Since, flu is caused by virus, the medicine would have little or no effect on illness. It would, instead, pave the way for microbes to develop resistance to the drugs. In India, the usage peaked around the end of monsoon. A similar trend was noticed for other virus-borne and fever-producing diseases like chikungunya and dengue.

Such unmonitored use of antibiotics has led to an alarming increase in antibiotic resistance. Diseases caused by resistant bacteria have been known to be unresponsive to normal treatments and result in a higher probability of death. “New resistance mechanisms emerge and spread globally threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in death and disability of individuals who until recently could continue a normal course of life,” said World Health organization (WHO), in its recent report on antimicrobial resistance.

The researchers from Princeton University have called for rational use of antibiotics through coordinated efforts, particularly by the BRICS countries where the increase in usage has been the most marked. It was noted that public health officials in these countries were using antibacterial medicine as a quick fix to health woes rather than actually implementing sanitation reforms to prevent the occurrence of disease in the first place. 


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