A new study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases suggests the Chinese government’s efforts to reign in non-prescription antibiotic sales could face an uphill climb.
The study, conducted by a team of researchers with China’s Xi’an Jiaotong University, recruited Chinese medical students to visit more than 2,400 community pharmacies across China and request antibiotics for a child with diarrhea or an adult friend with an upper respiratory tract (URTI) infection. In nearly half of the pediatric diarrhea and 70% of the URTI interactions, antibiotics were handed out without a prescription, and consultation or advice on antibiotic use was rarely offered. Pharmacies in rural areas were more likely to be offenders.
Curbing non-prescription antibiotic sales in the nearly half-a-million community pharmacies across China was one of the aims of a 5-year national action plan to improve rational use of antibiotics issued by the Chinese government in 2016. The government said it hoped to eliminate the problem by 2020. But the authors of the study say the results of these simulated antibiotic requests cast doubt on that goal.
“Our findings raise concerns about whether China can achieve its 2020 national goal to end non-prescription antibiotic sales,” they write.