With the discovery of penicillin in 1928, antibiotics began to play a key role in controlling infectious diseases. However, soon after antimicrobial medicines were introduced into clinical use, microbial pathogens began to develop resistance to them. The problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) was initially addressed by the development of new classes of antimicrobials and by the chemical modification of existing ones. Developments of new antimicrobial drugs have, however, not kept pace with the ability of microbes to develop resistance.
What are the consequences of AMR?
AMR is now a global public health challenge and an escalating threat to the control of infectious diseases worldwide. AMR results in prolonged illness, greater risk of infection spread and increased morbidity and higher mortality rates, with associated increases in both financial and societal costs. AMR-related challenges are greater in developing countries because of factors such as limited human resources and regulatory, technical and infrastructural capacities. These include, but are not limited to, surveillance and monitoring of antimicrobial drug use and antimicrobial resistance, medicines distribution and use, medicines regulation and enforcement, and infection prevention and control. The nature and the extent of the AMR burden are not fully quantified.
What are pharmacists doing to stem AMR?
Pharmacists are the most accessible healthcare professionals and are fully competent in all aspects of medicines. They serve as communicators and educators on healthy behaviours and infection prevention. They increase the coverage of immunisation in hard-to-reach groups, and are in a good position to explain the importance of using antimicrobials only when needed.
Pharmacists provide effective medication management for both short- and long-term treatments. They assess whether they can successfully treat a patient or whether the patient needs to be referred to another healthcare professional. Where pharmacists are legally allowed to prescribe antibiotics, fast and reliable diagnostic tests can support them in the proper diagnosis of common infections such as chlamydia or Lyme disease. In hospitals, pharmacists lead antimicrobial stewardship programmes and are competent in hygiene and sterilisation. Pharmacists collect unused medicines, reducing the presence of antimicrobials in the environment.
FIP summarised pharmacists’ activities from around the world in the report called “Fighting antimicrobial resistance: The contribution of pharmacists”, highlighting best practices worldwide and how current national AMR policies are facilitated by professional organisations of pharmacists.
FIP unites pharmacists for global action plan
Fighting AMR through the responsible use of antimicrobials remains a key issue because even if we are able to discover new antibiotics, their efficiency may soon become impaired if used irresponsibly. Moreover, an estimated USD 54bn could be saved annually through responsible use of antimicrobials.
The World Health Assembly endorsed a “Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance” in 2015. FIP was pleased to contribute to the World Health Organization consultations to develop this plan. The overall goal of the global action plan is to ensure, for as long as possible, continuity of the ability to treat and prevent infectious diseases with effective and safe antimicrobial medicines that are quality-assured, used in a responsible way, and accessible to all who need them. FIP is now collaborating with the WHO on the plan’s implementation, for example, through the engagement of pharmacists in collaboration with other healthcare professionals to reduce AMR.
FIP unequivocally supports the United Nations General Assembly’s Political Declaration on AMR, subscribes to the “One Health” approach and strongly endorses the WHO’s global action plan on AMR as the blueprint to address this challenge nationally and globally. FIP has declared this political commitment in its 2017 FIP Statement of Policy on the Control of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).