Whether it’s a headache, a flu or a feeling of resentment, you’ll probably encounter many Maltese people who’ll just recommend swallowing a couple of antibiotics and get it over and done with. Now, we have official statistics to go with that stereotype… and it’s not looking too good.
In a 2016 Eurobarometer survey, 48% of Maltese participants reported being prescribed at least one antibiotic during 2015
The same survey did also say Malta was among the countries with the highest decline in antibiotic use, but this decrease is clearly still not good enough.
A quarter of the Maltese participants said that they used antibiotics after being diagnosed with any illness.
More alarmingly, half of them said that they had used them as soon as the symptoms appeared.
Now that you know the stats, what do they mean?
These figures actually show Malta’s registered third greatest drop in antibiotic use, but despite this, the islands are still listed as the second highest user across all EU member states.
When asked, more than one in three answered incorrectly when asked if they could use the medication to combat the common cold.
But then, 92% answered correctly when asked whether unnecessary antibiotic use lowered their effectiveness, and three quarters of those interviewed said that excessive use can have harmful side effects.
And though the Maltese seem to be relatively well-informed off the negative repercussions of excessive use, they were the third least likely in the EU to have received informative material on this problem.
Why don’t these figures add up?
The results of the survey show that Maltese people are aware that taking antibiotics is harmful for their health, and unfortunately Malta sees between 25 to 35 deaths due to their bodies learning to resist certain types of antibiotics.
Put simply, it’s because that’s just what they do.
When you take antibiotics, they fight off bacteria – the catch is that they don’t work for viruses and certain antibiotics affect specific types of bacteria. Furthermore, excessive antibiotic use may result in bacteria developing an immunity to the antibiotic and thriving in the face of antibiotics. This means the next time you get sick, you’d need a stronger and altogether different medicine in order to fight it off as the bacteria is now able to resist the original antibiotic.
Dealing with Malta’s antibiotic problem
The survey also revealed that a lot of the antibiotics were prescribed by doctors, even if just for a mild illness. When talking to Malta Today, the Public Health Superintendent Dr Charmaine Gauci noted that antibiotics were also occasionally given by pharmacists without prescriptions, an issue which is being effectively dealt with.
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry launched a national strategy against antimicrobial resistance in a bid to control and possibly reverse current use of antibiotic trends.