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GLOBAL ACTION NEED OF THE HOUR

Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, June 19, 2024, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Recently, a strategic roundtable on ‘Charting a new path forward for global action against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)’, organised at the 77th World Health Assembly, the apex decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO) stressed on the need to accelerate action against AMR. Considering the growing threat of its prevalence across the world, the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting (UNHLM) on AMR is also scheduled to be held in September 2024 and the leaders have expressed desire that the meeting would accelerate action against AMR. There can be no two opinions among the health experts about the fact that AMR is emerging as one of the major health crises being faced by the entire world. And this is not the health crisis of the present generation alone, as it is going to be the biggest health crisis of the next generation too, if not tackled in time. Experts have already red flagged over the looming grim situation, if necessary steps are not taken immediately. Even though AMR also occurs naturally over time, indiscriminate use of antibiotics is one of the major reasons for the emergence of AMR. The hard fact is, misuse and overuse of antibiotics are threatening to undo decades of medical progress. The gravity of the situation can be gauged from the words of none other than the WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who stated that AMR threatens to unwind centuries of progress in human health, animal health, and other sectors and it is a growing and urgent crisis which is already a leading cause of untimely deaths globally. More than 2 people die of AMR every single minute in the world.   

No doubt, AMR is a gathering storm that threatens a century of progress in medicine. Each year, drug-resistant bacteria claim more than a million lives globally, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Yet this crisis is still a silent one. It is often observed that the availability of life-saving medicines over-the-counter makes matters worse as people tend to purchase antibiotic drugs even for illnesses which are due to a virus rather than a bacterium. When antibiotics are so readily available, there is no imperative for them to be treated with the care they needed. Yet another fact is that the burden of AMR falls disproportionately on low- and middle-income countries, where healthcare systems are overburdened, and resources are stretched. Quite obviously, the global community has declared AMR as a public health crisis and the regulators world over, including the Indian regulators, have already initiated measures to tackle the issue on war footing as they are seized of the grim scenario. It is true that AMR has been hitting the headlines for the last some years as it has become a serious and growing public health issue that threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an increasing range of bacterial infections. Interestingly, the emergence of resistance is not only limited to the older and more frequently used classes of drugs but there has also been a rapid increase in resistance to the newer and more expensive drugs. The fact is that the world today is literally standing on the edge of a post-antibiotic era - a world without antibiotics, in which illnesses from minor throat infections to serious illnesses like cholera, tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc are untreatable. In such a background, the initiatives being taken by WHO is praiseworthy as charting a new path forward for global action against AMR is the need of the hour.

 
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