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Femi OlawuyiFemi Olawuyi is a graduate student of the Biotechnology program at University of Maryland University College (UMUC), Md, and an AAPS graduate student member.

The efficacy of antibiotics in treating infectious diseases contributes to a high reliance on their use in the healthcare industry. This may account for the high rate of investment from biopharmaceutical companies in their production. Although the business of producing antibiotics is lucrative for the biopharmaceutical industry, their aggressive use has created major concerns in health science. The McDonnell Norms Group has identified two major problems with the overuse of antibiotics: lethal side effects and bacterial resistance. The latter is well connected to the overprescription of broad-spectrum antibiotics by healthcare providers to treat minor conditions, high concentrations of bactericides in nonmedical household products, and the use of antibiotics on healthy livestock bred for human consumption.

An overuse of antibiotics allows infectious bacteria to devise a defense mechanism against the bactericidal action of antibiotics causing a bacterial resistance to antibiotics in the human system. Although the misuse/overuse of antibiotics is a global concern, the practical issue of antibiotics resistance can be better studied in world regions where there are no regulatory laws in place on prescribing antibiotics. For instance, in most areas of West Africa, antibiotics are commonly sold as over-the-counter medications, a factor that may be connected to the high rate of antibiotic resistance among consumers in that region. In their study on self-medication in Nigeria, a West African country with over 170 million people, K.P. Osemene and A. Lamikanra found that from a sample undergraduate student population of 2000, more than 50% used over-the-counter antibiotics.

The responsibility of preventing the misuse of antibiotics, however, rests on healthcare professionals. Health professionals such as doctors, pharmacists, and nurse practitioners should prescribe narrow-spectrum antibiotics rather than broad-spectrum antibiotics, which are not uncommon in the treatment of infectious diseases. Joel Kreisberg asserts that, in order to minimize consumers from misusing antibiotics, they should be informed about the harmful effects of their overuse, which drug companies sometimes fail to do. People should also be informed about reducing the consumption of meat and poultry bred with antibiotics from their diets, disposing unused and expired antibiotics, and observing healthy practices that can limit the spread of bacteria.