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China’s misuse of antibiotics should be curbed

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 12 February 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1083
  1. Yan Li, lecturer, School of Arts and Humanities, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom

Pressure from patients and perverse financial incentives are just two of many factors that conspire to encourage potentially dangerous overuse of antibiotics in China, writes Yan Li

China has a high rate of antibiotic use for inpatients and outpatients. On average, each Chinese person consumes 138 g of antibiotics a year—10 times that consumed in the United States. About 75% of patients with seasonal influenza are estimated to be prescribed antibiotics, and the rate of antibiotic prescription for inpatients is 80%.1 The World Health Organization recommends a maximum of 30%.2 About 97% of surgical patients in China are given antibiotics.3

In many primary healthcare centres in China, antibiotics are regarded as a panacea. However, they have no effect on viral infections such as the common cold. They are also ineffective against sore throats, which are usually viral and resolve spontaneously.4

Antibiotic misuse is not helpful to treatment and can damage the body in different ways. Irrational use of antibiotics can lead to drug resistance, toxicity, and allergic reactions.5 The effectiveness of antibiotics is under threat from misuse in China because of diseases mutating to develop …

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