Addicted to drips

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-12-23 20:03:01

A woman holds her IV bottle while riding a scooter in Nantong, Jiangsu Province. Photo: IC

The arrival of winter has left many plagued by colds and flu, but the treatment they are likely to receive in hospital is an all-round one: the IV drip.

Figures from 2009 showed that China used 10.4 billion bottles through IV drips, or about eight bottles per person, compared with 2.5-3.3 bottles per person in foreign countries, according to a top official with the National Development and Reform Commission.

Many IV drips are used to administer antibiotics, contributing to overuse in China that is a major factor in raising bacterial resistance to the drugs. As a result, the drugs themselves are losing efficiency over time and being administered in greater quantities. Anti-viral medicines are also commonly administered through IV drips.

IV-administered drugs act faster and more directly, and hence can have worse side effects. In developed countries, they are usually only prescribed when a particularly quick effect is needed or oral administration is impossible.

No national-level regulations over the use of IV drips have been issued save for some provincial guidance, though the Ministry of Health has vowed to curb the medical practice to normal levels. Medical experts agree that more than half of the IV drips in China are unnecessary, and a large proportion of minor illnesses like colds require nothing more than hot water, rest and aspirin. But patients, with doctor's connivance, often push for IV drips, believing they will help with a quick recovery.

China's health system, in which hospitals rely on selling pharmaceuticals to cover costs, has been blamed for overuse. Doctors tend to prescribe IV drips, which are usually multiple times the cost of pills, for better economic returns.

The health ministry has encouraged hospitals to publicize the cost of curing certain diseases in an attempt to curb high medical expenses. But it may require social change to curb patients' enthusiasm for the tool.

Global Times

A nurse prepares to give a baby IV drips in the Huangdao TCM Hotapital in Qingdao, Shandong Province. Photo: IC

Parents hold their children for IV drips outside a clinic in Honghu, Hubei Province. Photo: IC


A father holds the IV bottle for his son in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province. Photo: IC

Children receive IV drips in a hospital in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province after a temperature drop on December 4. Photo: IC

Medicine for use in IV drips is produced in a pharmaceutical enterprise in Anyang, Henan Province. Photo: IC



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