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Antibiotics no good for sinusitis

14th March 2008

Researchers have said GPs should decrease the amount of antibiotics they prescribe for sinusitis because they are not effective.

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This week, the National Institute for Clinical and Health Excellence (NICE) advised GPs they should not issue prescriptions for antibiotics or offer "delayed prescriptions" for a person to try if they fail to get well.

About 90% of people who have the condition in the UK are given antibiotics. Sinusitis can occur following a bout of illness and affects between 1-5% of the adult population each year.

A sinus infection can cause an elevated temperature, soreness in the face and a stuffy nose.

However, The Lancet has published a study which reveals the treatments do not have an effect, even if a patient has had the condition for over a week.

The study examined the case of 2,600 patients who had sinusitis. It found that the length of time the patients were unwell before they were given antibiotics did not show whether the drugs would work.

The statistics revealed that only one in 15 patients would be cured of the condition with the drugs.

Current guidelines advise GPs to give the drugs if the sufferer has had the condition for a week to 10 days.

Study leader, Dr Jim Young, from the Basel Institute for Clinical Epidemiology in Switzerland, said: "If a patient comes to the GP and says they have had the complaint for seven to 10 days that's not a good enough reason for giving them the antibiotic."

Co-author, Dr Ian Williamson, a GP in Southampton and researcher at Southampton University, said although patients often thought their doctor should give them drugs to treat the condition: "Antibiotics really don't look as if they work."

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