June 18, 2019
2 min read

WHO launches campaign to promote antibiotics classification program

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WHO today announced a global campaign to promote its AWaRe antimicrobials classification index, with the hope that more countries will adopt the tool to reduce the spread of resistance.

Developed in 2017, AWaRe classifies antibiotics into three groups — those used for the most common and serious infections, which should be widely and cheaply available (“access”); those with higher resistance potential (“watch”); and those that should be used sparingly or as a last resort (“reserve”).

With its new AWaRe promotion campaign, WHO aims to persuade countries to increase the proportion of consumption of antibiotics from the “access” group to 60% by 2030, according to Mariângela Simão, MD, MSc, WHO’s assistant director general for access to medicines.

“We have evidence showing that, increasingly, the use of the ‘access’ group of antibiotics to at least 60% of the national consumption lowers the risk of resistance,” Simão said during a telebriefing.

As of November 2018, 29 of 65 countries that reported antimicrobial usage data to WHO had reached 60%, Hanan Balkhy, MD, WHO’s assistant director general for antimicrobial resistance, said in the briefing. Balkhy said almost 51% of countries reporting data were using the “access” classification.

Although proper classification is vital to mitigating the effects of antimicrobial resistance, it is only one piece of the complex puzzle, Balkhy said. Other necessary interventions include enhancing infection and control methods as well as sanitation and hygiene, expanding access to clean water, eliminating open defecation and educating farmers on proper use of antibiotics for animals and agriculture to avoid wasting vital resources for humans, she added.

In addition to the briefing, WHO also will lead an advertising campaign for AWaRE that “will guide it towards health care providers, but also to the public to be aware that there is a system and methodology for prescribing antibiotics and there's a science that follows behind it,” Balkhy said.

Each country or region dealing with this antimicrobial resistance has its own specific set of needs that must be met, according to Balkhy.

“We need to customize the message, and the best people to customize the message are the locals,” Balkhy said. “Building the capacity for those people to understand the significance of the problem and engaging them in solutions that are country-specific or culture-specific would be very helpful.” – by Joe Gramigna

Disclosures: Simão and Balkhy report no relevant financial disclosures.