China's state press reported on Monday that the misuse of antibiotics (such as over prescription of the drugs) and patients' adverse reactions to them causes nearly 80,000 deaths annually.
The estimate was reached after medical experts investigated the deaths of 200,000 sick people in 2005, concluding that 40 percent of the fatalities were due to the abuse of antibiotics, the China Youth Daily said.
Last year, antibiotics were prescribed to about 74 percent of hospital patients and about 21 percent of outpatients, figures far higher than in many other countries, the report said, citing the Ministry of Health.
Excessive use of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant viruses, the report said.
The main reason for the excessive usage was that hospitals could earn more money through prescriptions, due to the relatively high price of antibiotics, it added.
The drugs accounted for almost 26 percent of drug sales at 124 hospitals in 2004, according to a national survey.
"Some patients and even doctors consider antibiotics as a panacea and use them often in minor illnesses," the paper quoted health ministry official Wu Yongpei as saying.
"Many doctors even do not know the basic usage rules for such medicines."