A whopping $200M will be expended this year on the procurement of antibiotics for the public health sector, according to Minister of Health, Dr Leslie Ramsammy, in wake of the challenge being created by the resistance to some existing antibiotics.
He revealed that over the last 10 years there was an average of 20 new antibiotics that were released annually, an amount that has since reduced to a mere two.
“The new antibiotic pipeline is drying up and it is incumbent on us – it is an imperative, not an option – that we preserve what we have…”
This year alone, some 20 million doses of medicines will be used in the health sector, leaving out those prescribed for HIV, TB and malaria, representing some 55,000 doses per day, according to the Minister.
“We have to, because it will protect lives. If we don’t have access to these affordable medicines…we will have to spend between five and 100 times what we are already spending…”
The Minister stressed that earnest efforts are being directed to addressing the resistance problem which is often caused by the misuse of antibiotics.
“This is truly a genuine problem that has not occupied a big enough space on the global health agenda,”Dr. Ramsammy said.
As part of its support to address this problem, the Ministry of Health with the support of the Pan American Health Organization launched a ‘Be wise about antibiotics’ campaign as part of the observance of World Health Day yesterday. The key focus was anti-microbial resistance, which has the potential of causing the development of infections, by extension leading to death.
But even in the face of such challenges, Guyana has been able to reduce its infection-related deaths from an average of 12,000 and 14,000 to five and six thousand on an annual basis, according to Dr. Ramsammy. The Ministry, he said, was able to realize such statistics over the past 20 years.
“Not so many people are dying because of these infectious diseases and that is the reason why we have been able to reduce deaths in our country,” he noted. This phenomenon obtains worldwide, the Minister said, adding that “whereas infectious diseases used to account for more than 80 percent of all deaths in our country they now only account for about 12 percent.”
This, he attributed to an increase in quality and quantity of health workers, as well as thorough vaccination coverage, which stands at over 95 percent among children, and helps to prevent deaths from about 15 deadly infectious agents.
The Health Minister stated that the Essential Medicine List (EML) also contributes to this achievement, and noted that this did not exist in the 1980s.
“Now every two years we publish a new EML, the newest version for Guyana exceeds the EML of the WHO. Guyana has implemented an EML that goes beyond the minimum list that the WHO has recommended.”
Guyana’s EML, Dr. Ramsammy explained, contains more than 500 medicines that the government has committed to providing all of the time.
“We have not achieved yet the capacity to ensure a smooth, flawless provision of all of these medicines and we do experience shortages at times, but in the 1980s, most of these medicines were never available and today they are available almost all of the time…”
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