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Medicinal data to promote proper drug use
By Zhang Yong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-24 01:15

Shanghai is preparing to establish a gigantic database for drug users to better guide residents' medicine use and prevent potential large-scale drug abuse, local drug authorities said.

The first phase of the database, which will cover 300,000 local senior citizens' detailed drug records -- including details like names and doses of drugs, frequency of taking medication and side effects -- , is expected to be completed by the end of this year, according to Shanghai Food and Drug Administration.

"Through the project we will better monitor locals' drug use," said Du Wenmin, vice director of the Shanghai Drug Adverse Reaction Monitoring Centre, told China Daily.

The centre is a subsidiary institution under local drug and food administration and is carrying out the project.

According to a recent investigation conducted by the centre in Shanghai's Jinshan District, 78 per cent of local middle-aged and senior citizens have taken medicine in the last month, and 91.56 per cent buy drugs every year.

"Shanghai people take too many drugs compared with people in other countries and regions," said Du. "And it is also a common problem across Chinese cities."

The investigation also shows that local senior citizens tend to choose cheap and low-grade drugs for their chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, but meanwhile take a large amount of the latest antibiotics products.

Overuse of antibiotics decreases their effectiveness and increases bacterial resistance.

The overuse of antibiotics in Shanghai's hospitals has brought on stronger resistance to drugs compared with people in other regions of the country, Gui Yonghao, director of Children's Hospital Affiliated to Shanghai Fudan University, told local media earlier.

Currently, newly developed antibiotics only remain effective for two to three years, according to Gui.

In some cases, patients' resistance to antibiotics means no medicine can help, Gui cautioned.

"There is an urgent need to provide more professional guidance on local people's use of medicines," said Du, who pointed out that Shanghai's ageing population is expected to consume more drugs in the coming years.

So far, the centre has collected drug use records of nearly 200,000 local senior citizens, according to Du.

He also revealed that "from next year" the database will be incorporated via a computer network with those people's medical treatment records at local hospitals so as to monitor their drug use simultaneously.

And in the coming three years, such a database will further expand to cover all permanent residents in Shanghai, said Du, who added that the centre is applying for more financial support from local authorities.

Worldwide, the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Canada and Switzerland have established similar drug monitoring databases, to analyze the data and provide professional guidance on the proper use of medicine .

In addition, the establishment of the database will help local drug authorities better supervise drug manufacturers.

"We hope the database can help perfect drug management and re-evaluation systems," said Li Ping, an expert with Shanghai Drug and Food Administration.

"Some drugs may not achieve the ideal effects they claim," Li said.

There are reports of deaths caused by fake medicines every year, and the administration has pledged to take more thorough actions against the sales and production of counterfeit medicine, according to Li.

The administration has decided to finance the centre's supervision network to expand from current 400 medical institutions to all drug manufacturers, sales outlets and hospitals in the city this year, according to the centre staff.

In case there is a large-scale or serious adverse side-effects, the centre will report and publicize warnings within 24 hours, staffers said.

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