PORTUGAL is one of the worst countries in Europe when it comes to taking antibiotics, claims a recent report. Spain, Italy, Greece and France also have a poor record on abuse and over-prescription in the study whose findings were published in the British medical publication, The Lancet, this month.
And the indiscriminate use and abuse of these medicines, often without prescription, could lead to serious problems of resistance in the future, it warns. According to the EU’s Consumer Institute, the incorrect prescription of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of resistant strains of bacteria, which are difficult to treat. According to Eduardo Mendes, vice president of the Portuguese General Medical Council (APMCG), the fact that Portugal is one of the country’s in the EU that over-prescribes antibiotics is “extremely negative” with incidents of “self-medication posing a serious threat to public health”.
He believes that it is important that both doctors and patients understand that people cannot take antibiotics, “like cough sweets”, at the first sign of a cold or sore throat, but rather they should be reserved for serious infections and prescribed by doctors.
“It’s important to understand that not all infections can be treated with antibiotics. Viral illnesses, like flu for example, do not respond to them and doctors shouldn’t feel under pressure from their patients into handing out antibiotics,” he added. According to Infarmed, the consumptionof medicines in Portugal has risen four per cent in the past three years, while the use of antibiotics continues to be high despite a fall of one per cent over the same period. An even more worrying item of news emerged from the US last week concerning the emergence of a new drug-resistant strain of the HIV virus that can lead to Aids.
In New York, tests have revealed that three out of four antiviral protease inhibitor-based drug regimes do not work in keeping the new virus strain from replicating, with the consequence that Aids could develop in some patients within a matter of months.
In Portugal, the incidence of HIV infection is high among intravenous drug users and is increasing among sex workers.