How Does Antibiotics Work?

Categories:General Health
Farhan Mirajkar

   A few thoughts for a rainy day. Like…. We all have our pet cures for a pet ailment, that we keep falling back on, thinking they’ll work the same way each time. Trouble is, the human system doesn’t always tally together with the tidiness of a chemical equation on paper. Do you know for instance that you could react differently to the same drug each time you take it? I learnt this lesson at a price. I’m rarely ill but when I come down with the occasional cold (usually induced by a marathon session in the swimming pool) it truns into a mother-of-all, acute sinus infection complete with stuffy nose, yellow phlegm, et al. Initially amoxcyllin worked well enough for me, wiping out the irritating symptoms in a matter of days. Then a few years ago, ,id course, I woke up one might to find both my palms coveted in an itchy rash. All clues pointed in the direction of an allergic reaction to the antibiotic. The specialist switched me to another line of antibiotics. This one saw me through 3 or 4 sinus infections over the last 3 years.

A couple of weeks ago however, while nursing a cold I was roused from deep sleep by the strangest of sensation running through my legs it was as if all the nerves in these limbs were on free. Getting up and walking around made it vanish, lying down brought it right back. The description of my symptoms caused the doctor to  suggest it may be Restless Legs Syndrome.  But after 2 nights and days of walking around in a sleep deprived fog (I wasn’t keen on getting hooked to the low dose sleeping pills he’d prescribed me) I stopped taking the roxythromycin  I was midway (never recommend this to anyone). The results were almost instant. Ah, to sleep in peace at last! Trouble is, both episodes have eliminated 2 antibiotic choices from my list  of  viables.  I hope I don’t run out of options at this rate. Especially  with the way cost of medical treatment is rising these days. Imagine spending a $300 to cure  a cold! It’s enough to give you a bad case of heartburn, except that a strip of antacid costs a ridiculous $1. There isn’t enough space in this article to list all the drugs that have been priced out of the common man’s reach because of patent laws.

Multinational drug companies claim that these sky-high costs are justified because they spend enormous amounts of money on research and development . But I this really true? Here is what a US based fact-finding committee unearth about pharma companies. Drug makers hardly ever do any R &D. Most of the creative work in inventing new drugs is done at universities and government labs, then licensed (usually at a very nominal fee) to the pharma industry. Pharma companies spend more on “educating” doctors, lobbying and advertising than on innovation. A majority of the drugs approved by the US FDA in recent years didn’t even contain new active ingredients. They were just old drugs in slightly  different forms so called “me-too” drugs. Yet these drugs were put  into the market at exorbitant  rates as if they’re brand new formulations. (They weren’t better than the existing ones, by the way.) So where is all the money going? Into the companies’ own kitties, of course. Think about that when you shell out $ 10 for a “new generation” antibiotic.


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