Use and Prescription of Antibiotics in Primary Health Care Settings in China | Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology | JAMA Internal Medicine | JAMA Network
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Original Investigation
December 2014

Use and Prescription of Antibiotics in Primary Health Care Settings in China

Author Affiliations
  • 1Phase I Clinical Center, Beijing Shijitan Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, China
  • 2Department of Pharmacy, Civil Aviation General Hospital, Beijing, China
  • 3School of Public Health, Peking University, Beijing, China
  • 4Collaborative Innovation Center for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, Hangzhou, China
  • 5State Key Laboratory for Diagnosis and Treatment of Infectious Diseases, the First Affiliated Hospital, School of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China
JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(12):1914-1920. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.5214

Importance  Appropriate antibiotic use is a key strategy to control antibacterial resistance. The first step in achieving this is to identify the major problems in antibiotic prescription in health care facilities, especially in primary health care settings, which is where most patients receive medical care.

Objective  To identify current patterns of antibiotic use and explore the reasons for inappropriate prescription in primary health care settings in China.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A total of 48 primary health care facilities in China were randomly selected from 6 provinces at various levels of economic development. Data for the years 2009 through 2011 from 39 qualifying facilities (23 city and 16 rural primary health care centers) were analyzed retrospectively. The study sample consisted of prescription records for 7311 outpatient visits and 2888 inpatient hospitalizations.

Main Outcomes and Measures  General health center information, drug usage, disease diagnoses, and antibiotic use by outpatients and inpatients were surveyed. Cases of inappropriate antibiotic prescription were identified.

Results  Most staff in the primary health care facilities had less than a college degree, and the medical staff consisted primarily of physician assistants, assistant pharmacists, nurses, and nursing assistants. The median (range) governmental contribution to each facility was 34.0% (3.6%-92.5%) of total revenue. The facilities prescribed a median (range) of 28 (8-111) types of antibiotics, including 34 (10-115) individual agents. Antibiotics were included in 52.9% of the outpatient visit prescription records: of these, only 39.4% were prescribed properly. Of the inpatients, 77.5% received antibiotic therapy: of these, only 24.6% were prescribed properly. Antibiotics were prescribed for 78.0% of colds and 93.5% of cases of acute bronchitis. Of the antibiotic prescriptions, 28.0% contained cephalosporins and 15.7% fluoroquinolones. A total of 55.0% of the antibiotic prescriptions were for antibiotic combination therapy with 2 or more agents. In nonsurgical inpatients in cities, the mean (SD) duration of antibiotic therapy was 10.1 (7.8) days. Of the surgical patients, 98.0% received antibiotics, with 63.8% of these prescriptions for prophylaxis.

Conclusions and Relevance  Antibiotics are frequently prescribed in Chinese primary health care facilities, and a large proportion of these prescriptions are inappropriate. Frequent and inappropriate use of antibiotics in primary health care settings in China is a serious problem that likely contributes to antimicrobial resistance worldwide.