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Antibiotics appear to have little benefit for uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections

Patients with uncomplicated lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis, who were given antibiotics had little difference in symptom relief compared to patients who did not receive antibiotics, according to a study in the June 22/29 issue of JAMA.

Acute lower respiratory tract illness is the most common condition treated in primary care, according to background information in the article. In the United States, excess antibiotic prescribing is mainly for pharyngitis and acute bronchitis, amounting to 55 percent of prescriptions and costing $726 million per year. A consensus has been made for limiting antibiotic use in acute lower respiratory tract infection. However, recent reviews have come to diverse conclusions about the likely effectiveness of antibiotics and a recent review confirms a moderate effect of antibiotics on illness course; the debate continues unabated about the role of antibiotics because these reviews are relatively small. There are also concerns about complications if antibiotics are not prescribed and debate about which clinical characteristics identify those patients at higher risk.

The relative importance of prescribing strategies and information about natural history is also unclear. Preliminary evidence suggests that provision of an information leaflet can affect return rate and antibiotic use in lower respiratory tract infection, although the effect on symptomatic management of such a simple leaflet and whether a leaflet provides additional benefit to simple verbal information remains unclear.

Paul Little, M.D., of the University of Southampton, Highfield, England, and colleagues conducted a study to assess the effectiveness of three different antibiotic prescribing strategies on symptoms, beliefs, and behavior and to assess the effectiveness of an information leaflet compared with brief verbal information alone. The randomized controlled trial, conducted from August 1998 to July 2003, included 807 patie
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Contact: Paul Little, M.D.
p.little@soton.ac.uk
JAMA and Archives Journals
21-Jun-2005


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