The Kerala Drug Control Department has taken a proactive step to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) through Operation Amrith (Antimicrobial Resistance Intervention For Total Health). This initiative aims to curb the overuse of antibiotics in the state by conducting surprise raids in pharmacies and detecting over-the-counter (OTC) sales of antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription.
AMR, or antimicrobial resistance, refers to the ability of bacteria and microbes to resist the drugs used to inhibit or kill them. Recognized as a “silent pandemic,” AMR was associated with approximately 5 million deaths globally in 2019, with 1.3 million deaths directly attributed to it.
Role of Drug Controller
The Drugs Controller of Kerala emphasized the significant role played by the Drugs Control Department in optimizing antibiotic use by preventing OTC antibiotic sales. Pharmacies are now required to maintain records of antibiotic sales and display posters stating “antibiotics not sold without doctor’s prescription.” Strict actions will be taken against those who fail to comply.
To involve the public in this crucial initiative, the Drug Control Department encourages individuals to report pharmacies selling antibiotics without prescriptions. A toll-free number has been provided for lodging complaints, and upon receipt, the complaints will be transferred to the zonal office for verification and immediate action.
Alignment with State Action Plan
Operation Amrith activities align with Kerala’s Antimicrobial Resistance Strategic Action Plan (KARSAP) and its antibiotic literacy initiative. Kerala, being the first Indian state with a state action plan on AMR aligned with the national plan, initiated the Antibiotic Literate Kerala Campaign to raise awareness about AMR.
Phase Out OTC Antibiotic Sales
The health department in Kerala is committed to completely phasing out OTC antibiotic sales without prescriptions and taking strict actions against violating pharmacists. This step is crucial in curbing the misuse of antibiotics and promoting responsible antibiotic use.
Drug Take-Back Programme
Kerala has implemented the Programme on Removal of Unused Drugs (PROUD) to ensure proper disposal of unused antibiotics. Launched in Thiruvananthapuram district in 2019, this drug take-back programme aims to prevent environmental contamination and further resistance development.
Global Health and Economic Impact
The World Bank estimated in 2017 that annual global healthcare costs could reach $1.2 trillion by 2050 under a high AMR impact scenario. Additionally, the world could lose 3.8% of GDP annually, leading to up to 10 million deaths each year, primarily in Asia and Africa. Kerala’s proactive measures contribute to the global fight against the economic and health impacts of AMR.
Kerala’s Efforts on AMR Surveillance
In addition to Operation Amrith, Kerala has undertaken significant efforts in AMR surveillance. The state launched the Kerala Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Network (KARS-NET) for human surveillance in 2018-19. Moreover, in August 2023, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board inaugurated an AMR lab specifically dedicated to environmental surveillance, further emphasizing the comprehensive approach towards tackling AMR.
Important Questions Related to Exams
1. What does AMR stand for?
2. What is the primary goal of Operation Amrith in Kerala?
3. Which program in Kerala focuses on the proper disposal of unused antibiotics?
Kindly share your responses in the comment section.