Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Call to focus on antibiotics misuse

A doctor has said curbing antibiotic misuse is more important than the war on illegal recreational drugs

Ministers should call off the "unwinnable" war on illegal drugs and instead focus attention on curbing global antibiotic misuse, a health expert said.

Highlighting the "severe" public health problem arising from antibiotic resistance, Dr Jonny Anomaly, of America's Duke University, said that governments around the world have "squandered" money by criminalising the use of recreational drugs.

The philosophy, politics and economics expert said that policymakers should "stop wasting resources" trying to fight the "morally dubious" war on recreational drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin and shift their attention to the misuse of antibiotics.

He said that antibiotic resistance is "compromising the health of people around the world" and called on health officials to regulate the use of such drugs.

Recently, the Government's Chief Medical Officer warned that resistance to antibiotics is one of the greatest threats to modern health. Many antibiotics are being used unnecessarily for mild infections, helping to create resistance, said Professor Dame Sally Davies.

Writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Dr Anomaly says: "Policymakers should stop wasting resources trying to fight an unwinnable and morally dubious war against recreational drug users, and start shifting their attention to the serious threat posed by our collective misuse of antibiotics."

He adds: "We should call off the 'war on drugs' and consider more humane and less intrusive alternatives for helping drug addicts. By contrast, the use of antibiotics creates a global, inter-generational collective action problem in which the consumption choices of each person have significant welfare effects on others.

"This suggests that there is a much stronger justification for governments to regulate the use of antimicrobial drugs than there is for regulating recreational drugs.

"Yet in many countries around the world, antibiotics are either sold over the counter or casually dispensed without much consideration of the social consequences.

"Instead of a fully free market for antibiotics, I have argued that we should think hard about how to regulate them in a way that carefully balances individual liberty and public health."

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