Antibiotics 'heavily overused' in China

Updated: 2011-10-19 17:21


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BEIJING - Chinese medical experts have warned that antibiotics have been "heavily overused" at hospitals, which might cause serious side-effects for the health of an entire generation.

The average annual consumption of antibiotics per capita in China amounts to 138 grams, ten times the level in the United States, said Xiao Yonghong, an expert with the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology, Peking University, in the Beijing-based Guangming Daily on Wednesday.

Penicillin is the most overused. According to a report from the Health Ministry, the average dose of Penicillin that each Chinese has taken annually is almost three times higher than the international level.

According to the ministry, 70 out of 100 Chinese inpatients have received antibiotics while the maximum number set by the World Health Organization is 30.

About 97 percent of patients in the surgical department in China used antibiotics but research showed that a large number of surgical patients would not need antibiotics if hospitals conducted proper sanitation measures, the ministry report said.

Particularly, antibiotics are overused in the treatment of children. Nearly one third of the daily 10,000 outpatients at the Beijing Children's Hospital take intravenous drips that largely contain antibiotics, said Yang Yonghong, a doctor with the hospital.

"Some doctors might lack proper training on how to apply antibiotics in a more precise way and avoid potential risks. Some simply want to play it safe," said Zhu Zhenggang, president of the Shanghai-based Ruijin Hospital.

The ministry launched a nationwide campaign over the past six months to regulate the use of antibiotics in the latest effort to ensure safe medical practice.

Although progress has been made, Vice Health Minister Ma Xiaowei admitted that the government faces great challenges as quite a few public hospitals have loosened supervision on prescription safety under heavy pressure from patients.

Tougher measures will be made to regulate the practice at small hospitals and those at local levels, he said.

Insiders also noted that the overuse of antibiotics was partly driven by profit-seeking pharmacy firms.

There are more than 6,000 pharmacy companies in China that produce more than 1,000 sorts of antibiotics.

About 60 percent of the newly approved medicines by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) last year were antibiotics.

According to the SFDA, the country reported 690,000 cases of adverse drug reactions caused by abuse of medicine, including 600 deaths in 2010.

The SFDA announced a regulation on the clinical application of antibiotics last week, reportedly the strictest ever.