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Limited access to antibiotics a major problem for many countries around the world

High costs and limited access to these drugs is harming consumers

Photo (c) Stas_V - Getty Images
While many researchers have explored how overusing antibiotics can be dangerous, a new study looked at the ways a lack of supplies can also be detrimental.

According to researchers from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, countries that have limited access to antibiotics are seeing people die from very treatable diseases and infections.

“Lack of access to antibiotics kills more people currently than does antibiotic resistance, but we have not had a good handle on why these barriers are created,” said Dr. Ramanan Laxminarayan. “Our research shows that of 21 new antibiotics entering markets between 1999 and 2014, less than five were registered in most countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Just the mere existence of an effective antibiotic does not mean that they are available in countries where they are most needed.”

Gaining insight and striving for change

To see how this issue was affecting countries around the globe, the researchers looked at data on why countries -- including those at low-, middle-, and high-income levels -- face issues gaining access to antibiotics. The team interviewed representatives from Germany, Uganda, and India to get their take on the situation.

The researchers found that cost plays a large role in these countries. Even when antibiotics are readily available, it can be incredibly expensive for consumers to have to pay for the drugs out of pocket.

Of the three countries involved in the study, 65 percent of people in India pay for healthcare out of pocket, compared with over 40 percent of Ugandans and only 13 percent of Germans. The study also revealed that many citizens in these countries spend a good portion of their paychecks on prescription medications because there are little to no national funds that go towards healthcare.

Another concern is consistency. Many low-income countries have a hard time keeping antibiotics stocked on a regular basis because of inconsistencies with drug manufacturers, making it difficult for residents in these places to have their medications regularly.

The researchers also found that having trained, qualified healthcare professionals to administer antibiotics can be difficult in low- or middle-income countries.

Not only is India facing a massive doctor and nurse shortage, but Uganda is struggling to fill anywhere from 10 to 54 percent of positions in the healthcare field. This impacts how often patients are given their medications and the dosage they receive, among other concerns.

The researchers identified several initiatives government officials can take to improve this situation and ensure that people are receiving the antibiotics they need when they need them. They recommend new funding options for essential antibiotics, countries registering their need for specific medications, and local manufacturers producing certain drugs, among many others.

To read the full list of suggestions and the researchers’ complete findings, click here.

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