New law targets antibiotic abuse

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Shanghai Daily, August 5, 2011
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Doctors who prescribe unnecessarily expensive antibiotics for financial gain will lose their right to prescribe medication and practice in outpatient facilities, according to the draft of a national rule released yesterday.

The regulation is under a public review period, which began yesterday and will end on September 5, and is set to take effect this year. It is meant to curb the abuse of antibiotics in hospitals, which is contributing to rising drug resistance, and should also help lower patients' medical bills.

The use of antibiotics in Chinese hospitals is double to triple that of Western hospitals, professionals say. And many are overused because hospitals rely on income from drug sales, and some doctors earn profits illegally by accepting commissions from pharmaceutical companies.

The overuse has also contributed to misunderstandings about the effects of antibiotics among the public and hospitals' medical staffs.

To control the situation, the draft divided antibiotics into three categories - unrestricted, restricted and special management - which are those under a higher level of scrutiny because of their potential for serious adverse reactions. The last category also tends to be the most expensive of all antibiotics.

Having full or partial access to antibiotics will depend on the rank of the medical institution and doctors, who must undergo training and pass an examination.

Some hospitals in Shanghai have already introduced an antibiotics classification system and restrict doctors' rights of prescription.

"We have an online prescription system, which restricts the antibiotics that each doctor can prescribe according to their rank," said Xia Lin from the Shanghai Children's Medical Center. "Low-level doctors don't have access to expensive medicines or those with strong adverse reactions. If giving such medicine, senior doctors must take part."

She said the hospital reviews every prescription each month and investigates doctors giving large doses or unnecessarily expensive medicines. Warnings and administrative penalties will be given to doctors who are caught violating the rule.

The draft also requires the establishment of a surveillance network by the national and provincial health authorities to monitor antibiotics use and drug resistance.

Hospitals are required to rank the name, quantity and frequency of antibiotics used by departments and doctors.

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