WATSONS and UNILAB Supports the Efforts of 'Philippine Society of Microbiology & Infectious Diseases' to Halt Spread of Superbugs

Last week BLOG-PH.com attended the 33rd Annual Convention of the Philippine Society of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID) at Crowne Plaza, which has the theme “Infectious Disease Apocalypse: Seamless Take Over”

The convention mainly focuses on the threat of infectious superbugs and how this can be stopped, in which WATSONS PHARMACY and pharmaceutical manufacturer UNILAB supports. “Superbugs” are antibiotic-resistant bacteria that pose a deadly threat to humanity.

Guest speaker of the event is Celia C. Carlos, MD, FPIDSP, FPPS, FPSMID. She's a Consultant in Pediatrics and Infectious Diseases at Research Institute for Tropical Medicine. She's also works for St. Luke's Medical Center and Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital.

Dr. Celia Carlos from the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine teaches us the possible threats of the Superbug and how it may affect our health.

Dr. Rontgene M. Solante (President of PSMID) said that, 

the number one cause of superbugs emergence is improper use of antibiotics. He said, “If we keep using antibiotics improperly, the day may come when our antibiotics no longer work against bacterial infections—we will have an infectious disease apocalypse that will endanger the human race.”

He note four (4) common practices of antibiotic misuse in the Philippines that promote the emergence of superbugs. These include: 

1. Self-medication. This happens when a patient buys antibiotics on his or her own without prior consultation with a doctor. Some of these patients borrow a used prescription; or follow the advice of relatives and friends in buying antibiotics.

2. Skipping a dose of antibiotic. Patients who miss a dose or several doses of antibiotic are allowing bacteria to recover from—and develop a resistance—to the antibiotic’s effects. There’s also a risk of infection resurgence. 

3. Stopping antibiotics use too early. Some patients don’t finish the prescribed treatment course of the antibiotics prescribed to them. They stop taking the antibiotics once they feel better. Others are unable to buy all the antibiotics prescribed because they don’t have enough money. 

4. Using antibiotics like over the counter drugs. Antibiotics are powerful medications that must be used only under a doctor’s supervision. Unfortunately, some patients mistakenly believe that antibiotics are used to relieve symptoms like fever, body pain, coughs and colds.

Such symptoms are usually caused by a viral infection; antibiotics should not be used to treat viral infections. 

Instead, viral infections are best cured by taking enough rest, drinking lots of fluids, taking vitamins and supplements; using lozenges and other remedies. These remedies plus the body’s immune system are usually enough to fight off a viral infection. 

Some patients, however, do not know the difference between a viral and a bacterial infection. So they take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription, just like over-the-counter medicines—and some drugstores allow patients to do this.

Dr. Solante cited a medical study that found that 66% of antibiotics sold in Manila were sold without a prescription. 

“These practices, when done often enough, lead to the emergence of superbugs. In the Philippines, two types of bacteria—one that causes gonorrhea and another that causes tuberculosis, are already antibiotic-resistant,” he said. 

"WATSONS Compliance Packs" Aid in Proper Antibiotics Use

According to Solante, the antibiotics Compliance Packs sold by WATSONS and UNILAB are helpful to efforts of doctors, researchers and the Department of Health in preventing superbug emergence in the country. 

Compliance Packs from WATSONS PHARMACY and UNILAB help ensure the proper use of antibiotics because 1) They are pre-packaged following the most common doses prescribed by doctors; 2) They are priced lower than multinational brands; and 3) Their packaging is safe and designed to encourage the right use of antibiotics.

“Antibiotics in pill form are stored individually in blister packs for a reason: the patient has to take them one by one, according to schedule. Other sellers package their antibiotics with a re-sealable pouch design where the pills are bunched together inside. This type of packaging for medicine is flawed, in our opinion. It’s okay to package candy in this way but not antibiotics,” said Belinda E. Pesayco, Senior Regulatory Affairs Manager of Watsons Personal Care Stores (Phils.), Inc.

Pesayco explained that a re-sealable packaging for medicines may be confusing to a patient since all the pills are in a common pile inside the container. It would be harder for the patient to keep track of how many pills he or she has taken.

She also pointed out another flaw with the re-sealable design: the patient would have to reach into the container with fingers, and pick out one pill from all the other pills inside. This increases the chance of spillage, or worse, a patient might mistakenly pick out more than one pill and ingest these, resulting in overdose.

“Furthermore, if there happens to be moisture in the fingers, the quality of the pills inside might get compromised; after all, they are not individually separated. Ideally, all medicine should be kept dry to preserve their effectiveness,” Pesayco added.

Standard and Effective Quantities

Not only are WATSONS Compliance Packs packaged more properly, they contain the standard quantity of antibiotics usually recommended by doctors. 

Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics to patients for a treatment course of usually seven to ten days.

This schedule of treatment is done to the most common bacterial infections that occur in the community, including upper respiratory infections like sinusitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, coughs and colds that are caused or made worse by bacterial infections. 

As one research paper states, “…shorter courses of oral antimicrobial therapy cannot be endorsed at this time” (“Practice Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Group A Streptococcal Pharyngitis” by Alan L. Bisno, Michael A. Gerber, Jack M. Gwaltney, Jr., Edward L. Kaplan, and Richard H. Schwartz).

WATSONS Compliance Packs are packed in the right quantities that help consumers follow complete antibiotic treatment. Other pre-packed antibiotics make consumers think they are buying something cheap—and yet, they actually contain only five days’ dose.

“Other sellers offer pre-packaged quantities of antibiotics good only for five days. WATSONS believes that this does not promote the best clinical outcome for patients. Furthermore, most patients would need to buy more than five days’ supply anyway—so in the end, the patient does not really save money. 

WATSONS Compliance Packs are based on the standard clinical practice of physicians, ensuring that patients have enough antibiotics supply. Our seven-day packs make it very convenient for patients to follow their doctor’s instructions; recover faster; and prevent superbugs,” said Lyle Joseph Morrell, Health Business Unit Head of WATSONS . 

High Quality Antibiotics, Lower Cost

Antibiotics Compliance Packs are being sold exclusively in all outlets of WATSONS PHARMACY. These pre-packaged antibiotics that are priced forty to sixty percent lower than that of multi-national brands. The antibiotics are manufactured by UNILAB so their quality, safety and effectiveness are guaranteed.

The availability of affordable and effective medication ensures that Filipino patients are able to buy the total amount prescribed; and complete the dosage as instructed by their doctor. 

“Making safe and effective medicines more affordable to more Filipinos is an advocacy of UNILAB,” said Atty. Jose Maria Ochave, Corporate VP for Business Development Group, UNILAB. 

He added that UNILAB is constantly improving its initiative in lowering the prices of its medicine. It manufactures and markets off-patent pharmaceuticals that are just as effective, yet more affordable, compared to equivalent branded drugs. 

This view is supported by Morrell. He pointed out that the lower prices of quality antibiotics being sold in Compliance Packs will help patients use antibiotics more properly. 

As an example, Morrell mentioned Amoxicillin 500mg, the most basic type of antibiotic used to treat patients with community acquired infections.

“A full dosage of Amoxicillin 500mg costs P273 if one buys from a multinational brand. On the other hand, a full dose of Amoxicillin 500mg in a Compliance Pack costs only P110. That’s already a savings of 60 percent if the consumer buys the Compliance Pack,” said Morrell.

Well-Trained Pharmacists

WATSONS also helps in the campaign by making sure its store pharmacists are well-trained and knowledgeable in the proper use of antibiotics. Their pharmacists may recommend over-the-counter medicine to relieve a patient’s symptoms if there is no antibiotic prescription from a doctor.

Otherwise, the pharmacist may also suggest that a patient consult a doctor first before purchasing antibiotics. WATSONS Compliance Packs are available in its 170 stores nationwide.