Overuse of antibiotics for the common cold - attitudes and behaviors among doctors in rural areas of Shandong Province, China

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Abstract

Background: Irrational antibiotic use is common in rural areas of China, despite the growing recognition of the importance of appropriate prescribing to contain antibiotic resistance. The aim of this study was to analyze doctors' attitudes and prescribing practices related to antibiotics in rural areas of Shandong province, focusing on patients with the common cold. Methods: A survey was conducted with doctors working at thirty health facilities (village clinics, township health centers and county general hospitals) in three counties within Shandong province. Questions were included on knowledge and attitudes towards antibiotic prescribing. Separately, a random selection of prescriptions for patients with the common cold was collected from the healthcare institutions at which the doctors worked, to investigate actual prescribing behaviors. Results: A total of 188 doctors completed the survey. Most doctors (83%, 149/180) had attended training on antibiotic use since the beginning of their medical practice as a doctor, irrespective of the academic level of their undergraduate training. Of those that had training, most had attended it within the past three years (97%, 112/116). Very few doctors (2%, 3/187) said they would give antibiotics to a patient with symptoms of a common cold, and the majority (87%, 156/179) would refuse to prescribe an antibiotic even if patients were insistent on getting them. Doctors who had attended training were less likely to give antibiotics in this circumstance (29% vs. 14%, p < 0.001). A diagnosis of common cold was the only diagnosis reported on 1590 out of 8400 prescriptions. Over half (55%, 869/1590) of them included an antibiotic. Prescriptions from village clinics were more likely to contain an antibiotic than those from other healthcare institutions (71% vs. 44% [township] vs. 47% [county], p < 0.001). Conclusions: Most doctors have recently attended training on antibiotic use and report they would not prescribe antibiotics for patients with a common cold, even when placed under pressure by patients. However, more than half of the prescriptions from these healthcare institutions for patients with the common cold included an antibiotic. Exploring and addressing gaps between knowledge and practice is critical to improving antibiotic use in rural China.

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Sun, Q., Dyar, O. J., Zhao, L., Tomson, G., Nilsson, L. E., Grape, M., … Lundborg, C. S. (2015). Overuse of antibiotics for the common cold - attitudes and behaviors among doctors in rural areas of Shandong Province, China. BMC Pharmacology and Toxicology, 16(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40360-015-0009-x

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