2 Million Reasons India Should Restrict Antibiotics

Charu Bahri | IndiaSpend | December 26, 2014

Minimum effort. Minimum expense. Maximum result.  In colloquial English, that’s the mantra that guides India, a mantra that has helped it become a global centre for low-cost innovation—and kept the country addicted to slapdash, jerryrigged solutions to complex problems.

One of these careless solutions—seeking quick, cheap solutions to common colds and fevers—now threatens to place 2 million Indians at risk of dying every year by 2050, a British economist estimated earlier this month.  The cause of these deaths would be the impending failure of antibiotics, medicines hailed as wonder drugs in the 1940s when they first demonstrated powerful abilities to stop harmful bacteria. That failure is directly connected with India’s pill-popping habit, which has seen antibiotic use soar by 62% over the last decade, against 36% across the world, according to the latest data from Princeton University in the US.

Antibiotics, available strictly on prescription in the West and many emerging nations, are sold over the counter in India. Giving in to patient demands to get treated quickly and cheaply, many general practitioners prescribe one of several popular antibiotics. Many patients simply self-prescribe antibiotics...