Easier access to H1N1 medicines raises fears of drug resistance

In news

  • Concerns regarding a build-up of resistance to antiviral drugs used to treat swine flu are surfacing, after two such drugs — Oseltamivir and Zanamivir — were taken off the restrictive Schedule X of the Drugs and Comestics Rules.
  • Now under Schedule H1, the drugs can be stocked by all chemists.
  • Central health authorities have also advised doctors to prescribe the drugs based on strong symptoms, without opting for the swab test. Medical experts say these decisions could lead to misuse and eventually, severe drug resistance.

Drugs for H1N1

  • Oseltamivir and Zanamivir are antiviral drugs that block the actions of influenza virus types A and B in the body. While Oseltamivir is available as tablets, Zanamivir comes in powder form.

Concern

  • We are already witnessing antibiotic resistance and related hazards.
  • Resistance built up only because antibiotics were easily available and even sold over the counter.
  • Now, it seems to be going the same way with antiviral drugs.

Mixed Reaction

  • It is good, because when H1N1 cases are on the rise, the drug will be available to patients easily.
  • However, it could backfire because in India, we don’t use caution.
  • The doctors will prescribe these drugs so widely that eventually it will stop working.

Restrictions in place

  • Drugs under Schedule X require three copies of prescription for the doctor, patient and chemist, and can be sold by a chemist who holds a special Schedule X licence.
  • Also, the chemist has to preserve the prescription copy for up to three years.
  • In Schedule H1, only one copy of the prescription is required, and drugs in this category can be sold by all chemists.

Way forward 

  • Chemists will still need a prescription to sell the drug. The only difference is, the drug will be widely available. It all depends on doctors now. If they prescribe the drug with caution, there won’t be misuse.
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