|17 February, 2019

Over half of UAE residents forget to take antibiotics: Study

Three out of 10 people believe that they should stop taking antibiotics once they start feeling better.

Antibiotics are viewed as one of the greatest discoveries in history, as they kill and prevent the growth of bacteria.

At least 54 per cent of UAE residents find it difficult to remember to take antibiotics, a study has shown.

A recent research commissioned by global healthcare company GSK showed significant gaps in antibiotic awareness and best practice among patients in the UAE, which could contribute to the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The research also showed that three out of 10 people believe that they should stop taking antibiotics once they start feeling better, rather than finish the course of their treatment.

The study used both qualitative and quantitative insights from doctors, pharmacists and patients in the Emirates, and identified several behaviours and factors that affect patients' adherence to antibiotic use.

Antibiotics are viewed as one of the greatest discoveries in history, as they kill and prevent the growth of bacteria, helping clear infections in patients. However, their misuse is accelerating the process of AMR, wherein certain bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics. This results in bacterial infections that are difficult to treat.

According to the World Health Organisation, AMR represents one of the biggest current threats to global health and development.

Dr Laila Al Dabal, head of infectious diseases unit at the Rashid Hospital, said: "A common mistake among patients is not completing the course of antibiotics. The patient might take two or three doses and as soon as she or he feels better, they stop the antibiotic without going back to the prescribing physician.

"This will obviously lead to the creation of drug resistance, and there is a cumulative risk every time an antibiotic is used or prescribed inappropriately," she added.

Experts say that while patients are popping pills without the right prescriptions, some physicians are also prescribing antibiotics unnecessarily.

"Physicians are under pressure from patients. They feel that if they don't prescribe the antibiotic, they will be blamed if something goes wrong later," said Dr Ashraf El Houfi, head of the infection control committee at Dubai Hospital.

New smart tool

In response to these gaps, GSK has developed Medzy, an interactive UAE-centric patient engagement chatbot that is implemented through Facebook Messenger.

Medzy, which is an abbreviation of "medication made easy", was brought to life through close collaboration and testing with UAE patients and specialists, whose challenges and needs have played a role in shaping the technology.

Sameh Elfangary, general manager at GSK in the Gulf, said: "When the data confirmed that almost 30 per cent of UAE patients do not complete their course of antibiotics and tend to seek advice from family, friends or online sources over a trained healthcare professional - the need became clear for an informed, patient-friendly solution that people can easily access, understand and incorporate into their daily lives.

"We see Medzy as a personal assistant for patients, dedicated to helping them manage their antibiotic use, offering simple but practical advice that could ultimately help slow down the process of AMR."

Dr Farheen Ali, a diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, said: "As doctors, increasing patient awareness about antibiotic resistance and understanding their role is paramount to us, as is making it as easy as possible for patients to stick to what we prescribe."

"The research shows many of the challenges doctors in the UAE face, and calls for amplified awareness in the form of a helpful intervention," she said.

Dr Eslam El Baroudy, consultant of paediatrics at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City (SKMC), said technology has become crucial in medicine.

"It is not only regarding the diagnosis of different diseases but also in tailoring the right way to make patients adhere to their proper treatment, aiming for the best outcome," he said.

"Moreover, the lifestyle rhythm is hectic nowadays and a lot of patients will never be compliant with their medications despite their sincere efforts - as it is most of the time out of their hands."

Medzy will help in the efficient, proper delivery of medication, decreasing the possibilities of human errors, he said.

Get to know Medzy

The patient-friendly chatbot provides simple-to-understand information including, but not limited to, the following:

1-What antibiotics are, when to take them and how they work

2-What AMR is, its causes, long-term effects and prevention tips

3-How to care for someone who is taking antibiotics

4-Reminders for patients to take their medication

5-Dosage and treatment length of medicine

6-Formulation of medication, ingredients and side effects

7-Safe disposal and storage of the medication

8-A way for users to report any side effects

KT NANO EDIT

Helping ourselves

We are losing the race against antibiotic resistance. Why do we find merit in stopping the medicines when the doctors prescribe them for a set period? Our ignorance, or shall we say arrogance in such cases, could cost us dearly. AMR is a grave issue and we must understand it well to help ourselves.

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