Antibiotics overprescribed in patients with sore throats

Monday, October 14, 2013 by: Jonathan Benson, staff writer
Tags: antibiotics, sore throats, resistant superbugs

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(NaturalNews) It is a familiar scenario: you go to the doctor with a sore throat and he or she prescribes you a course of antibiotics without actually verifying your condition. But new research out of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston confirms what many of us in the natural health community have suspected for decades concerning this seemingly frivolous application of antibiotics -- that up to 90 percent of sore throat cases are viral rather than bacterial, which means they will not even respond to antibiotics.

Dr. Jeffrey Linder and his colleagues arrived at this conclusion after poring through data on 8,200 primary care and emergency room visits that took place in the U.S. between 1997 and 2010. They discovered that 60 percent of these visits resulted in doctors prescribing antibiotics to patients, a rate that remained consistent throughout the study period. And while Dr. Linder's team did not have access to each patient's individual diagnosis, the data speaks for itself with regards to what we already know about sore throats.

"The right antibiotic prescribing rate for adults with sore throat is probably around 10 percent," Dr. Linder is quoted as saying to NPR, noting that overprescription of antibiotics continues to be a major problem in the U.S. "The right antibiotic rate for people with acute bronchitis, according to current guidelines, is probably zero percent."

Body of published literature confirms antibiotics are vastly overprescribed, but doctors still hand them out like candy

Numerous studies conducted over the years corroborate these findings, and yet doctors still dole out antibiotics 70 percent of the time when patients report throat symptoms. Rather than look closely at patients' symptoms to differentiate between viral infections and legitimate bacterial infections such as strep throat -- symptoms of strep include fever, swollen lymph nodes, white spots on the tonsils or swollen tonsils and no cough -- many doctors just resort immediately to antibiotics.

This was surprising to Dr. Linder, who expected to see greater improvements in how antibiotics are prescribed. After all, the greater medical community has known for several decades that many of the health conditions for which doctors have traditionally prescribed antibiotics do not actually require them. And yet little has changed in how these powerful drugs are prescribed.

"There is concern about antibiotic overuse causing super bugs and things we are not going to be able to treat down the line," Dr. Linder is quoted as saying to "I think what's missing from the conversation is the fact that we are prescribing and people are taking a medicine that has nearly a zero chance of helping them and a very real chance of hurting them."

Antibiotics killing people's guts, spurring epidemic of antibiotic-resistant 'superbugs'

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others have tried to educate both the public and the medical community about the dangers of antibiotic overprescription. Besides resulting in their eventual loss of efficacy, antibiotic overprescription has also been pegged as a primary driver of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs," not to mention a growing epidemic of gut flora damage.

"The truth is, nasty things are really pretty uncommon," says Dr. Paul Little, a professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton in the UK, as quoted by Reuters. According to Dr. Little, most people with sore throats do not even need to see a doctor in the first place, as their symptoms will eventually subside with enough rest and patience. "The vast, vast majority of these are going to get better on their own."

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