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China should curb non-prescription use of antibiotics in the community

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 30 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4233
  1. Yu Fang, associate professor, department of pharmacy administration, school of pharmacy, Health Science Center, Xi’an Jiaotong University, Xi’an, Shaanxi, China
  1. yufang{at}

Non-prescription sales in retail pharmacies and the use of leftover drugs stored at home drive inappropriate use, with the public health dangers that it brings, writes Yu Fang

The non-prescription use of antibiotics in the community is prevalent in China.1 The results revealed in a recent survey of 7915 residents conducted by the China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) were alarming: 2699 of 7915 respondents (34.1%) incorrectly believed that antibiotics were the same as anti-inflammatories, and 1892 (23.9%) chose to give themselves antibiotics instead of visiting a physician when they had symptoms of a cold.

This “self medication” varies in prevalence among different parts of the population. Our recent survey of 731 undergraduates at a university in Shaanxi province found that 40.2% had self medicated with antibiotics within the past six months. More than half of the students often stored antibiotics for self medication. Most preferred broad spectrum antibiotics, but almost half preferred intravenous antibiotics.2 Another survey of 854 people in rural China found that 62% of parents had given their children antibiotics in the previous year without the advice of a physician. …

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