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November 1, 2012

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Hospitals report dip in use of antibiotics

SHANGHAI reported a 20 percent year-on-year drop in antibiotics usage per patient in public hospitals last year after the city tightened management and promoted public education about the harm of overusing the drugs.

The education campaign will continue as local usage of antibiotics is still double or triple the level seen in developed countries, officials said yesterday when kicking off a three-year education program on drug, food and transportation safety.

Between April and July, community hospitals purchased 21.2 percent less antibiotics compared to the same period last year while district and city-level hospitals recorded a 4 percent decline.

"The drop of antibiotics use in the city showed that scientific education is effective," said Shen Xiaoming, vice mayor of Shanghai.

"The reduction means about 6 billion yuan (US$952 million) to 7 billion yuan was saved on drug costs."

Shen added that the savings on drug costs didn't include those suffering adverse reactions from antibiotics or the possibility of drug resistance in the future.

Overuse of the drugs can lead to antibiotic resistant germs and bacteria. When this occurs antibiotics no longer work against disease-causing bacteria.

These infections are thus more difficult to treat and can mean longer lasting illnesses, more doctor visits or extended hospital stays, as well as the need for more expensive and toxic medications. Some resistant infections can even cause death.

A survey conducted by the Shanghai Health Education Institute early this year found nearly 90 percent of residents had a proper understanding of antibiotics. Nearly 30 percent said they won't ask doctors to prescribe antibiotics any longer and 60 percent said they don't keep antibiotics at home.

Overuse of antibiotics is widespread in China. Hospitals often prescribe antibiotics as a matter of course to boost income and many patients have blind faith in the drugs.

According to Du Wenmin, vice director of the Shanghai Clinical Center for Drug Adverse Reactions, about 80 percent of patients in outpatient services and 90 percent of hospitalized patients are given antibiotics. But only 10 percent of patients are given antibiotics on average in the world, and of those, half didn't need them, according to the World Health Organization.


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