By Shannon Najmabadi
Image credit: @goulao.
The National Health and Family Planning Commission announced a new regulation Tuesday, limiting the use of antibiotics in general and specialized state-owned hospitals.
According to the Shanghai Daily, health officials said “local hospitals use excessive amounts of antibiotics,” a claim substantiated by previous estimations made by the commission. China Daily reported that the commission previously found that an average of 138 grams of antibiotics were taken per year by each person on the Chinese mainland – about 10 times the amount of antibiotics consumed by the US.
Shanghai Daily explains:
The permissible use of antibiotics should not be more than 60 percent on hospitalized patients, 20 percent at outpatient departments and 40 percent in emergency units in general hospitals, according to the regulation.
The regulation also stipulates specific requirements regarding antibiotic use in children’s hospitals, mental health centers, dental clinics, and maternity hospitals.
According to Xinhua, the National Health and Family Planning Commission stated that the overuse of antibiotics creates an unnecessary economic burden and can encourage bacterial resistance. Doctors found to be prescribing needless or excessive amount of antibiotics may have their licenses revoked or face other punitive measures.
Shanghai Daily again:
Wu Hong, from the Shanghai Health and Family Planning Commission, said Shanghai has stepped up control of antibiotics and seen a year-on-year drop in their use in recent years, but their use in domestic hospitals remains high.
But Ni Yuxing, an infection expert at Ruijin Hospital, said restricting the use of antibiotics on hospitalized patients, many of whom have undergone surgery, is difficult.
A TIME report published last year also called attention to the over-consumption of antibiotics in China and the harmful side effects it can produce.
The WHO says the effectiveness of antibiotics is under threat from overuse in China, as diseases mutate to develop immunity. It estimates that 6.8% of tuberculosis cases in China are multidrug resistant, compared just 2% in developed countries. Experts believe that diseases as diverse as syphilis and the hospital superbug MRSA are thriving as they adapt to China’s antibiotic-heavy environment.