China’s Exports of Antibiotics Keep Rising, So Do Antibiotic Resistance Issues

Pharmaceuticals, Medicinal Chemical And Botanical Products August 06, 2015
Author: Olga Minchina
Account Manager

China is one of the largest global producers and consumers of antibiotics. In 2014, China exported 27.4% of its total antibiotics output. Of this amount, 23% was supplied to India, where Chinese antibiotics held a 28% share of total India's consumption.

In 2013, China and Italy were the main global suppliers of antibiotics with a combined share of 36.9% of global exports, remaining the fastest growing exporters. From 2007 to 2014, average annual growth rates of antibiotics exports from these countries stood at 6.27% and 0.73%, respectively. Despite being the largest global producers of antibiotics, Thailand and the Republic of Korea did not export much of their production, meaning that it was either domestically consumed.

In 2014, Italy (13.0%), India (8.3%), France (8.0%), Germany (7.0%) and the U.S. (5.7%) were the leading destinations of antibiotics imports, together making up 41.9% of global imports in value terms. And while the share of France increased significantly, the share of Italy illustrated negative dynamics. The shares of the other countries remained relatively stable throughout the analyzed period.

Antibiotics were invented at the beginning of the 20th century and were almost immediately recognized as a crucial discovery that revolutionized treatment of both human and animal illnesses across the globe. After WWII, the widespread use of antibiotics considerably extended a person's life span, eliminating severe diseases, such as tuberculosis, plague and leprosy.

Since 1950, antibiotics have been used globally in livestock production to boost weight gain, balance intestinal flora, and speed up production. However, the expansive antibiotics usage has a significant downside, particularly when abused; unfolded antibiotic resistance (AR) represents a dire menace to public health on local, national and global levels.

The possibility for successful treatment of infections is dramatically mitigated by resistant bacteria. Moreover, AR may entail dramatic complications. In the EU, infectious diseases account for less than 7% of total deaths. Yet, AR bacteria cause over 25 thousand mortalities every year.

Likewise, in livestock, ordinary bacteria triggering diarrhea or respiratory infections became less susceptible to common veterinary antimicrobials. Due to strict regulations and the necessity of certificates and research, launching new antibiotics on the market can takes up to 10 years. As a result, this AR phenomenon begot losses exceeding 1 billion EUR.

The European Commission implemented a 5-year strategy dedicated to combat AR in 2011. This plan includes improved monitoring, raising awareness, promoting responsible usage of antibiotics and establishing more targeted distribution in lieu of the present mass strategy.

Approximately 50% of the antibiotics produced domestically in China are used in livestock production. It was estimated that 38.5 million kg of antibiotics were used in China's pork and poultry production in 2012. Antibiotic resistance (AR) already appears to be higher in China than in Western countries, and there has been a disquieting rise in the prevalence of resistant bacteria.

In the U.S., public health advocates have also come down on the long-established habit of resorting to antibiotics in producing livestock and poultry, because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria growth. Farmers defend this practice though, claiming that antibiotics are needed to keep cattle, pigs and poultry in a good state of health, and to boost meat production.

In 2012, the strategy of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was made public. This plan serves to exterminate unsupervised use of drugs as feed additives and confine antibiotics to therapeutic use only, requiring veterinarian supervision and a prescription.

Regarding the U.S. people, antibiotics are often unnecessarily prescribed at hospitals. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that four out of five U.S. citizens are prescribed antibiotics annually. Almost 50% of the estimated 258 million prescriptions turn out to be absolutely unneeded. A recent survey by Harvard researchers revealed that doctors prescribed antibiotics to 60% of patients with sore throat, though the drug is thought to be indispensable in only 10% of cases.

Source: World: Antibiotics - Market Report. Analysis and Forecast to 2020