Monday July 15 2013

Talking Medicine: Flagyl, the drug often misused

By Stella Nakakande

If there is any one urban Ugandan who has not consumed Flagyl because they have a stomach upset, then they are one in very many.

Aside from Panadol, this drug has become a household name. Flagyl is the trade name for a drug called Metronidazole.

It is an antibacterial or antibiotic. In medicine, there is a concept called rational drug use, which is defined as the prescription of a drug to the right patient, in the right dose and dosage, for the right duration and to the lowest cost to the patient and society.

In an ordinary setting, a pharmacy will have an average of between five to 10 people wanting ‘Flagyl’ and most times, their minds are made up. It is cheap, perhaps this could explain the popularity; a strip of 10 tablets costs Shs500 only.

So when one wakes up with a stomachache or perhaps a little discomfort, they run to the pharmacy and ask for the drug. They are told to swallow two tablets of this medicine three times a day. Like the good patients they are, they take the tablets for the first two days, the discomfort clears and they are done with it.

But health experts say, Metronidazole (400mg) has to be taken for at least five days and not only when it suits the patient. Also, it has to be taken after every eight hours. Failure to comply with these simple rules means that with time, the germs Metronidazole treats will develop resistance and the usual dose of the drug will no longer be effective.

Pregnant women who are in their first trimester are advised not to take this medicine and the elderly must be monitored.Flagyl can also be used in the management of a sexually transmitted disease called trichomoniasis characterised by large amounts of pale yellow or gray-green, sometimes foamy discharge from the vagina or penis.