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Survey reveals 50% of patients self-medicate using antibiotics to treat viral infections

Sat 25 Mar 2023    
The Brew News Team | 2 min read

Ras Al Khaimah: Nearly 50% of people surveyed have self-medicated using antibiotics, and 53% wrongly believe antibiotics can be used to treat viral infections.

These are some of the findings from a research study conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Cijo Vazhappilly from the American University of Ras Al Khaimah (AURAK) in collaboration with researchers from the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) and Ras Al Khaimah Medical and Health Sciences University (RAKMHSU).

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The study, funded by the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, focused on understanding awareness, attitude, practice, and perceptions about the use of antibiotics among the general public in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah.

Of the 306 residents who responded, 49% reported having self-medicated using antibiotics at least once. Nearly, 32% of the respondents admitted they had purchased drugs from the pharmacy to treat bacterial infections without a prescription in the last 1-2 years.

Another notable revelation was that more than half of the participants (52.94%) believed that antibiotics could be used to treat viral infections such as viral fever, thus contributing to antibiotic resistance. 

Prof. Stephen Wilhite, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Student Success/ Provost, AURAK said: “As a university committed to conducting research into critical topics, we are happy that our researchers have touched on a topic that is of vital importance in modern healthcare. The findings are highly relevant to efforts to limit antibiotic resistance in this part of the world.”

Dr. Mohamed Al Zarooni, Associate Provost for Research and Community Service, AURAK: “We are happy to have gathered some vital data on the spread of antibiotic resistance and thus guide policy makers on what needs to be done to tackle this very serious health issue. Though confined to the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, we believe the trends would be similar across the UAE. We do hope that people at large and medical practitioners in particular act suitably to limit antibiotic resistance.”

The research was conducted by senior academics and a group of students from AURAK’s Department of Biotechnology in the School of Arts and Sciences.

According to global studies, antibiotic resistance is one of the most serious threats to public health. Antibiotic resistance happens when microorganisms like bacteria, viruses and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. This means that the germs continue to multiply and infect body systems.

The study noted that antibiotic resistance leads to extended hospital stays, increased healthcare costs, and increased morbidity and mortality. 

The researchers also surveyed major pharmacies within Ras Al Khaimah to identify whether the policies on dispensing antibiotics were followed.  They came to the conclusion that the main reason for antibiotic resistance was the overuse or improper use of antibiotics in the health system.  Other potential factors include the limited awareness among some prescribers, their past practices with regard to prescribing antibiotics, patient expectations, pharmaceutical marketing, and the sale of antibiotics without a prescription.

The researchers recommended that each healthcare entity should have the policy to minimize antibiotic resistance.  They also advised that healthcare entities must educate the public, and constantly remind healthcare providers about the consequences of antibiotic resistance. 

The AURAK team also contributed to developing robust health education programs which subsequently were delivered across Ras Al Khaimah raising public awareness regarding proper antibiotic usage.

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