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Antibiotics 'over-prescribed'

19th October 2007

Antibiotics are still being prescribed unnecessarily and against national guidelines by GPs for coughs and colds.

Researchers from the UCL Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology in London analysed GP records and found that antibiotics were also being prescribed too commonly for sore throats and ear infections.

The report, in the British Medical Journal, found there is no evidence that prescribing them prevents serious complications except for chest infections and comes as experts want to see less prescribing to prevent resistance developing.

The researchers discovered that between1994 and 2000 rates of antibiotic prescribing for acute respiratory infections fell by 45% but by 2000, two-thirds of patients with respiratory infections were still prescribed antibiotics.

This is despite guidelines advising against their routine use in patients with upper respiratory tract infections, such as coughs, colds and sinusitis.

Around 80% of those with ear infections were given the drugs, along with 60% of patients with sore throats despite similar guidance.

Study leader Dr Andrew Hayward said the research showed there was still clear scope for reductions in antibiotic prescribing for upper respiratory tract infections.

Antibiotics are also not generally recommended for chest infections unless a patient has pneumonia but Dr Hayward said more research was needed to help doctors differentiate between chest infection and pneumonia.

GP Dr Dermot Ryan, who is also clinical research fellow in primary care respiratory medicine at the University of Aberdeen, said the data on chest infections backed up previous research which had shown cuts in antibiotic use had driven up rates of pneumonia.

 

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