The sale of prescription drugs over the counter will halt by June, according to a State Food and Drug Administration directive. Regulations banning the practice have been in place since 1999, but most pharmacies have yet to comply. All antibiotics not named on a list of legitimate over-the-counter drugs may be sold only with a prescription from the middle of next year. The directive singles out a number of drugs now commonly sold without prescription, among them sulphonamide and penicillin. Sulphonamide is a therapeutic antimicrobial agent used to treat bacterial and parasitic infections. It is the main element in the popular drug lianhuang, which mainland consumers use to treat mild cases of such infections. Sulphonamide is also present in xie li ting, a common anti-diarrhoea treatment. Approximately 3 per cent of the general population is allergic to the drug, and in some people, the allergy is fatal. Taking the drug without proper medical advice is extremely dangerous. Hu Xiao, from Jiangxi Medical University, said: 'The potential for side effects is not the only risk to people's health. Over-reliance on prescription drugs is dangerous because it can lead to the development of super-resistant bacteria.' Penicillin is also commonly sold over the counter, despite the fact that up to 5 per cent of the general population is allergic to it, some severely. Wang Jifang, a retired doctor in Shenyang, said: 'The problem is, it's both cheaper and easier to buy these drugs over the counter. Buying penicillin from a hospital is twice as expensive as buying it over the counter without a prescription.' Under the new directive, pharmacies found to be selling prescription drugs over the counter after next June's deadline can be fined between 10,000 yuan (HK$9,400) and 30,000 yuan. However, like other directives recently issued by the national watchdog, little mention is made of how its implementation will be monitored. The directive states that 'all levels' of officials within the drug administration body will be made responsible for implementation in their own areas.