China launches drive to cut use of antibiotics

China on Friday launched a campaign to curb the overuse of antibiotics and slow the development of drug-resistant bacteria.

The Health Ministry said the two-year programme will train about 45 000 health workers in the proper use of antibiotics, which many Chinese clinics and hospitals give in daily intravenous doses to patients with just a common cold.

”The programme will aim to step up the management of anti-bacterial medicine classification, slow the increase in drug-resistance, and ultimately realise the safe, effective and economic use of antibiotics,” state media quoted Health Ministry spokesperson Zhao Minggang as saying.

Zhao said the ”irrational use” of antibiotics was a major problem, especially in rural hospitals, and was leading to increasingly drug-resistant bacteria, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

”Abuse of antibiotics leads to extra medical spending of 80-billion yuan ($11,7-billion) across the country and about 30% of patients take them as a panacea,” Zhao said.

Antibiotics could eventually become redundant if no action was taken to curb their use, the agency quoted medical expert Zhang Shufang as saying.

Proper use of antibiotics could also improve safety, lower medical costs for patients and give pharmaceutical firms more time for research, Zhang said.

Zhang is one of a committee of experts who will train doctors and other health professionals in local medical centres nationwide, in a programme co-sponsored by the China Licensed Pharmacists’ Association and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, the agency said. – Sapa-dpa

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