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Antibiotic ointment overprescribed in Korea

Antibiotics ointments are prescribed three times more often in South Korea than in the United States, research showed Monday, amid rising worries over overuse of antibiotics in the country.

According to professor Kim Eun-young and her team at Chungang University’s Pharmaceutical College, Korea had over 3.5 times more prescriptions of Mupirocin, an antibiotics ointment, with 46.07 cases per 1,000 people compared to the US’ 13.10 cases.

Mupirocin is used on small cuts, wounds and minor burns to prevent bacteria from multiplying. The officially permitted usage of the antibiotic is on bacterial skin diseases such as boils and folliculitis.


The report limited its analysis to uses of the ointment in hospitals based on 2012 data. It showed that only 33.84 percent of prescriptions were to treat bacterial infections, while the rest were for unrelated reasons such as in surgical procedures.

The team said that doctors may have prescribed it to prevent infection after surgeries. As Mupirocin is an over-the-counter medication available for purchase without a doctor’s prescription, experts estimate usage around the nation to be much higher.

“Proper guidelines should be set to prevent the abuse of the medication through further monitoring and research that includes sales from pharmacies,” Kim said.

Frequent application of the antibiotic salve is discouraged, as it creates resistant germs, the research team said. The Australian Health Ministry prohibits reformulation of the medicine within 30 days of its usage.

By Jo He-rim (