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Over-the-counter antibiotics sale goes up with Haj flu season
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 11 - 2012

Fatima Muhammad
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH — With the end of Haj, the flu season has started for both pilgrims and residents.
People are buying antibiotics and other medication straight from pharmacies to treat their illnesses quickly.
Selling antibiotics without a prescription is against the law, yet a number of pharmacies are still issuing the medication.
Sami Badawood, head of health affairs in Jeddah, said the law completely bans pharmacists from dispensing antibiotics or any other medication over-the-counter except for painkillers, cough treatments and antiseptic creams.
According to him, inspections of pharmacies are carried out.
The department, however, mainly concentrates on increasing awareness among the public and pharmacists not to take antibiotics without a prescription.
Badawood said: “Inspections can never be a way to monitor 1,200 pharmacies in Jeddah alone, therefore we focus on increasing the sense of responsibility among pharmacists.”
Dr. Nasr Al-Deen Sharif, a pediatric consultant, said excessive use of antibiotics has a number of drawbacks, mainly reducing the immunity of those who consume them, especially children.
According to him, only doctors can decide if patients are ill because of a virus or a bacteria.
He added that due to ignorance, people tend to turn to antibiotics when they develop any symptoms of fever or flu.
Pharmacists, he said, are also responsible, as they should not give any antibiotics without a doctor's prescription.
He said: “No medication should be taken based on a pharmacist's suggestion or that of a neighbor.
“Only doctors should do that.”
Pharmacist Ahmad Sulaiman said antibiotics and medication for blood pressure, diabetes and psychological illnesses must not be issued except with a prescription.
However, other medications like painkillers and flu relievers can be given by pharmacists.
Sulaiman said pharmacists in general do not sell medicines except with a prescription. But in some cases they give short-term courses of antibiotics that patients are familiar with.
He said representatives from the Ministry of Health visit pharmacies occasionally and oblige them to post warnings explaining that patients cannot get antibiotics and other similar medications over the counter.
Sulaiman said: “For common illnesses like flu and colds, patients prefer to go to a pharmacy rather than spend SR500 at a hospital just to get the same medication.”
Some doctors are against giving antibiotics, while others are for it.
Sulaiman added: “We cannot treat antibiotics with phobia because we need them to combat bacteria.
“It is an essential treatment that is used even in countries that limit its use.
“At the same time we need to increase awareness among the public against their excessive use.”

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