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  • Writer's pictureJessica Proctor

Effects of Antibiotics on the Economy

New antibiotics are constantly having to be created because viruses are becoming resistant to them (bacteria changing in response to survive against antibodies). This can be due to people not taking antibiotics properly and overprescribing. They are one of the most commonly prescribed medicines and are becoming more globally used due to economical development. There’s a common theme with antibiotics; the production of new ones benefit large medicinal companies - but the misuse of them causes many problems financially and socially for the population. It’s a vicious cycle that's proving difficult to break, but also to maintain.

In the US it is estimated 47 million antibiotic courses are prescribed per year for infections that don't need to be treated with them. This is around 30% of all antibiotics prescribed. The effects of this are severe medical costs: When the bacteria have adapted to the antibiotic, if the person gets an infection again the body will not be able to protect itself and the same antibiotics will not be effective to reuse. This means people may suffer from severe symptoms when they get an infection and have to pay a large sum of money for medical costs for treatment. It also increases infection rates and means that the general health of the population worsens. This could all have been avoided if they hadn't been wrongly prescribed. However, a positive effect of this is large pharmaceutical companies can profit a lot from creating a new antibiotic as they are always in great demand - although it may be difficult and costly to do.

Antibiotic use is rapidly increasing in developing countries. Mongolia has the highest antibiotic usage globally, at 64.41 daily doses per 1000 people. This is an extortionate amount to be using and again this is most likely prescribed for infections that don't require them. In the long run, this will have catastrophic effects on developing countries, because people will become resistant to the antibiotics spreading disease and increasing medical costs. Furthermore, it also poses a problem that if this happens they will not have the resources nor funding to consistently create new ones to combat these diseases that people have become resistant to treatment for.

Tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis are all very common, serious infections that we must keep creating treatments for. In Nigeria there is an STD crisis - the prevalence of gonorrhea is as high as 28.1%. Since Nigeria is a low-income - developing country, being unable to treat this properly poses a major economic disruption for Nigeria as they do not have the money to constantly be having antibiotics be put to waste and to buy new ones. This is good for high-income countries such as the US which have the facilities to make new antibiotics but awful for lower income countries who cannot afford them. It doesn’t really impact the major companies that they are not making sales to low-income countries, as there is such high demand from high-income countries for them.

To prevent a global economic crisis, the World Health Organisation is encouraging people to start taking antibiotic usage seriously. Awareness is being raised about antibiotic resistance, and they are encouraging people to take antibiotics properly and to finish the course completely. They have also encouraged doctors to prescribe them less and are putting in place measurements to help third world countries maintain good hygiene and food safety to help lower the risk of the spread of infections. Although this will decrease profits in high-income countries and companies, it will increase global health and help low-income countries to develop without the worries of economic trouble.

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