Viewpoint: Prescription only access to antibiotics could exacerbate health inequalities in LMICs

Friday, August 24, 2018

By Mishal S. Khan, Sonia Rego and Julia Spencer

The global crisis of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is largely a result of extensive antimicrobial drug misuse. Consequently, global health policy makers at the highest levels have called for countries to combat AMR by reducing the inappropriate use of antibiotics,[1][2][3] with the suggestion that one way to do this is by making antibiotics accessible only with a prescription. On the surface, prescription only access to antibiotics—a policy which is common in high income countries but rare in low and middle income countries (LMICs)—seems a reasonable approach to combat AMR. However, we’d argue that this approach is both infeasible and inequitable in many LMIC settings.

This proposal fails to consider geographical differences in the distribution of licensed providers and how this may affect population health—a common oversight in discussions about policies to combat AMR. Yet our ongoing research in Cambodia offers insights into how the distribution of licensed providers could hinder a prescription only policy and patients’ access to antibiotics.

Photo courtesy of psyberartist.

Source: The BMJ (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
global development, research