Turkey leading consumer of antibiotics as antimicrobial resistance reaches tipping point

Medical doctors in Turkey prescribe more antibiotics than anywhere else in the world, helping to push antimicrobial resistance towards a tipping point that might soon return the world to the days in which even minor infections routinely killed.

The problem with antibiotics is that the more frequently they are used, the more rapidly the bacteria they target evolve resistance to them, rendering them ineffective. 

Policy makers and medical workers have long been aware of the problem, according to an article by policy analyst Riju Agrawal in Foreign Policy. However, the process of producing new antibiotics is costly, time-consuming and uncertain.

The rate of production of new antibiotics has slowed dramatically in recent years, writes Argawal. This has led to both a reduction in the effectiveness of existing antibiotics and to an increase in demand for antibiotics as bacterial resistance increases. 

In response to this problem, many countries have introduced stringent criteria defining situations in which antibiotics can be used. This aims to reduce unnecessary prescriptions of antibiotics and thus slow-down the spread of resistance. The European Union, for instance, banned use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animal feed in 2006 and other countries are quickly catching on.

Turkey, although still the world leader in the prescription of antibiotics, is taking steps to cut down on the frequency with which they are prescribed through the adoption of an electronic prescription system that monitors and controls their use.