Addressing Antibiotic Abuse in China: An Experimental Audit Study

J Dev Econ. 2014 Sep 1;110:39-51. doi: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2014.05.006.


China has high rates of antibiotic abuse and antibiotic resistance but the causes are still a matter for debate. Strong physician financial incentives to prescribe are likely to be an important cause. However, patient demand (or physician beliefs about patient demand) is often cited and may also play a role. We use an audit study to examine the effect of removing financial incentives, and to try to separate out the effects of patient demand. We implement a number of different experimental treatments designed to try to rule out other possible explanations for our findings. Together, our results suggest that financial incentives are the main driver of antibiotic abuse in China, at least in the young and healthy population we draw on in our study.