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June 3, 2004

Prescription to become a must for antibiotics

From: China Daily, China - Jun 3, 2004

Chinese will need a doctor's prescription to buy antibiotics from chemists from the start of next month.

The directive is part of a nationwide campaign that was launched Thursday by the State Food and Drug Administration.

The campaign will urge the public to take medicines in a safe way, as it aims to reduce the negative impacts of excessive and inappropriate drug taking.

"Such usage has become a key threat to Chinese people's health," said Zheng Xiaoyu,director of the administration.

China is on the list of countries which abuses antibiotics.

Statistics show that nearly 2.5 million Chinese are hospitalized annually due to adverse reactions to medicines. Excessive antibiotic use is responsible for half of the country's hearing impaired cases.

About 200,000 people die each year from taking the wrong drugs. And about 40 per cent of that number can be attributed to taking antibiotics indiscriminately.

Antibiotics are 10 of the top 15 most used medicines in China.

"Antibiotics are vital for some patients, but indiscriminate use will make bacterium resistant to them." Li Jiatai, a therapist at Peking University, was quoted by Xinhua News Agency as saying.

In China, a large number of medicines are available at chemists without prescriptions.

It means people buy medicines according to self-diagnosis and many regard antibiotics as a panacea.

"Bacterium are just like human beings. They are life forms and have very strong adaptability skills," Li said.

"At first, antibiotics can kill them but after that, the medicine only hurts them. They then become resistant."

Zheng said: "Education is important in improving the public's awareness, but the administration will also tighten control on the sale and use of drugs, which is a key measure in generating safer drug use."

The administration is creating regulations on the administration of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

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