I recently came across two articles which addressed the issue of antibiotic overuse and abuse. One of them was written by Ranjita Biswas of IPS (Inter Press Service) and the other was an article from an English language newspaper in Viet Nam. The first one gave a global overview of the problem with a focus on India, and the latter was an analysis of the acute problem we are facing here.
Perusing these articles and sharing them with my students, I was hit with the realization that we really have come to a dead-end with this 200+ -year-old Allopathic model of medicine. Allopathic, or ‘modern’ medicine started to gain serious traction in the 19th century in America, and really took off when the Rockefeller family got behind it and began to fund medical schools and hospitals in the USA and monopolize the cancer ‘treatment’ industry. The Rockefeller influence is a fascinating and little-known part of American history that is never taught to medical and nursing students. For a good introduction to the topic, I recommend Eustace Mullins’ ground-breaking work, “Murder by Injection. The Story of the Medical Conspiracy against America.”
Prior to the rise, and eventual overwhelming dominance, of Allopathy in America, most people visited a homeopath when they became seriously ill. If history had gone in another direction, it’s possible that today we would have allopaths, homeopaths, chiropractors and others all working together and none claiming dominance or hierarchy, but that’s not how things went. The doctors of the new medicine didn’t want competition and homeopathy and chiropractic were suppressed vigorously. Although today you can certainly still find any kind of medical practitioner you choose, it is undeniable that when most people think of ‘medicine’ , they are referring to the Allopathic model, which can be boiled down to pharmaceutical drugs and surgery.
Which brings us back to the subject of the recent articles: antibiotics and their use and abuse. The IPS article highlighted the problem in India where the average person takes eleven (!) antibiotic pills a year, which means that the country as a whole consumed an eye-popping 12.9 billion ‘units.’ The problem with widespread and regular use of antibiotics is that the bacteria for which they were designed to kill become resistant to them. Eventually, they adapt and evolve, or mutate, into ‘super-bugs.’ And then pharmaceutical companies must design a new antibiotic which the bacteria will eventually become resistant to as well. We’re in a vicious cycle and the only way out is to exit the system completely.
This has become a deadly serious matter. According to the article, in Europe alone 25,000 people die annually from drug-resistant strains of bacteria.
The overconsumption of antibiotics takes different forms depending on whether you live in the Western developed world or in the so-called developing world where I have lived for the past 3 years. In the USA in particular where many M.D.s have been corrupted by pharmaceutical pay-offs (disguised as seminars, dinners etc.), antibiotics are routinely over-prescribed. In the developing world, the problem is the completely unregulated buying and selling of the drugs. Many years ago when I got sick with an infection in Peru, I was delighted that I could walk into a pharmacy and simply buy an antibiotic without a doctor’s order. It saved me a lot of time and money. What I didn’t appreciate at the time was that everyone in the country was doing that whenever they got sick. Neither the populace as a whole nor the pharmacy workers were educated about the potential harmful effects of the drugs.
Going back to India, the article states that the problem is a combination of ‘increasing income and affordability, easy access without a prescription, willingness of physicians to prescribe antibiotics freely and a high background of infections that should ideally be contained by better sanitation and vaccination.’ In fact, that statement describes quite a few countries in our world including Viet Nam. With the crisis in India growing larger by the day, people are starting to recognize it and dumping Western medicine altogether for Ayurveda , homeopathy, and naturopathy.
A group has been formed in India to raise awareness of the issue. Ashok Tamhankar, the coordinator of the organization IIMAR stated, “The ignorance and callousness are at every level of society-from care providers like doctors , to pharmacists, lawmakers, manufacturers, and even the consumers.”
Such an awareness-raising organization is sorely needed in Viet Nam where the problem of rampant antibiotic overconsumption is acute. No doctor’s order is needed for most drugs and people routinely take an antibiotic for even the most routine health issue. I have read numerous stories here about people who run down to the pharmacy for a ‘pill’ the moment they start sneezing or coughing. The pharmacists, who lack the necessary training and are rarely held accountable, dispense the drugs without even discussing dosage and side effects with the customers. Is it any wonder that drug-resistant strains are multiplying rapidly in this unregulated environment?
Health authorities are belatedly realizing the magnitude of the problem and are trying to put some programs into place to combat it, such as unannounced visits to pharmacies. A recent survey found that 88 percent of antibiotic sales in the cities did not involve a prescription!
One hospital director here stated, “It’s no exaggeration to say that antibiotics are bought and sold at many pharmacies in Viet Nam as easily as vegetables.”
With the rise of the new bacterial strains, M.D.s in hospitals are prescribing ‘antibiotic cocktails’ to their patients, comprising 2,3,4,5, or even 6 or more different antibiotics. What insanity.
In Viet Nam, the level of ignorance around antibiotics and drug-resistant strains is massive. The government has a big job to tackle and lacks the resources to do much in the short term. In the long term, education at the grass roots level combined with strict enforcement at the national level are the only options to get the issue under control. And when we look further into the future, we will no doubt see a return to the past as well, with people once again embracing the holistic forms of healing that so many cast aside in the rush to modernism.