China imposes regulation to fight antibiotics abuses

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China's health authority is stepping up its efforts to fight against the overuse of antibiotics in the world's most populous country.

A regulation imposed by the Ministry of Health puts in place "unprecedented" restrictions for doctors when prescribing antibiotic drugs.

The Regulation on Management of Clinical Applications of Antibacterial Drugs takes effect on Wednesday.

The regulation asks doctors to carefully prescribe antibiotics based on a comprehensive check on the patient' symptoms, blood and urine test results. And an antibiotics prescription can be given only after the patient is diagnosed with bacterial infection.

The regulation also stipulates that less than 60 percent of inpatients are allowed to take antibiotics, and no more than 20 percent of outpatients are allowed an antibiotic prescription.

Zuo Xianbo is a doctor with the First Affiliated Hospital of Anhui Medical University, based in the eastern city of Hefei.

He reveals what his hospital has done to implement the antibiotics regulation.

"Besides complying with the regulation of the health ministry, our hospital has put in place strict rules for prescribing antibiotic drugs. Average doctors have been stripped of the right to prescribe antibiotic drugs, and only senior doctors have the right to make such a prescription."

But Zuo Xianbo notes that the overuse of antibiotics is a long-standing issue in China, which needs intensified and combined efforts to cope with.

"The regulation is conducive to curbing the overuse of antibiotics as it makes doctors more difficult to make an antibiotic prescription. In the meantime, I think we should also intensify efforts to improve public awareness about the harms of overusing antibiotics."

The health ministry estimates that an average of 138 grams of antibiotics is used per person on the Chinese mainland each year. That is nearly 10 times the amount in the United States.

On average, 70 percent of inpatients and 50 percent of outpatients in China have prescriptions for antibiotics.

The drug abuse has led to rising levels of antibiotic resistance across the country, which rang a warning bell for health authorities in recent years.

Researches show that it usually takes 10 years to develop new antibiotics, but bacterial resistance develops within two years, largely due to antibiotic abuse.

Health ministry officials are warning that without intervention, there may come a time when there are no effective antibiotics left.

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