All antibiotics, TB drugs and other habit-forming medicines may soon come with a label warning users about the dangers of taking them without medical advice. Recommending this to the health ministry as a way to address the problem of drug resistance, a task force has also suggested creating a new category, H1, for these drugs by amending the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules, 1945. Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told Parliament on Friday the recommendations have been included in the draft notification for inviting public comments. As per the notification, drugs specified in schedule H1 will be labelled with the symbol ‘Rx’ in bold red colour. It will have a warning, ‘It is dangerous to take this prescription except in accordance with medical advice and not to be sold by retail without prescription of the registered medical practitioner’.
Experts said it was a much-needed step as the indiscriminate use of drugs was leading to fatal consequences in patients. “In the late 1980s, we used to treat meningitis with first line antibiotics such as penicillin. Five years later, we had to use a combination of drugs due to growing resistance. Such is the condition now that even a combination of third-generation antibiotics does not guarantee full recovery,” said Dr Kameshwar Prasad, professor of neurology at AIIMS. He said strict regulation of the sale of these drugs was a must. Dr K Srinath Reddy, president of the policy think tank, Public Health Foundation of India, added, “Putting a label or warning message is good. But we should also have mass awareness campaigns on misuse of antibiotics and its consequences for good results.” A recent questionnaire-based survey conducted by the World Health Organization showed that 53% people take antibiotics without doctor’s prescription while 18% save unused antibiotics for later use, by themselves or by other family members. Dr Chand Wattal, chairman of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital’s microbiology department, said several cases of patients developing resistance to fungi, leading to death in some cases, were seen at the hospital. “Powerful third-generation antibiotics used to treat critically-ill patients destroy bacteria growing on dead or diseased tissues. This gives fungi, present in the environment and in the gastrointestinal tract, a chance to proliferate. They turn pathogenic, leading to infection and even death,” he said. Among those at high risk of such infections are children and the elderly, diabetics, HIV patients and critically-ill patients who require long hospital stay. “There are very few anti-fungal medicines available. If the fungi species continue to develop resistance against all available drugs, we might be left with no treatment options,” Wattal said.