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Sore Throats Unnecessarily Treated With Antibiotics

The above headline is from the September 12, 2001 issue of Intelihealth. The first sentence of the report then goes on to say, "Primary-care doctors are still unnecessarily prescribing antibiotics to adults who come to their office complaining of a sore throat." This report was based on a study from a retrospective study carried out by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and at Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention in Palo Alto, Calif. The report was published in the Sept. 12, 2001, issue of the Journal Of The American Medical Association.

The problem is that most adults don‘t develop the type of sore-throat infection that calls for antibiotics. This is because viruses, not bacteria, cause the most common type of sore throat infection in adults. This makes administering of antibiotics totally unnecessary in these cases. According to the study, doctors prescribed inappropriate antibiotics in 68 percent of visits for adults with sore throats. However, in spite of this, doctors continue to prescribe antibiotics at a rate between 73 and 78% of the cases of adult sore throat.

Jeffrey A. Linder, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and co author of the study said, "If you are going to see a doctor for a sore throat, the expectation should be to not receive an antibiotic. In 1999 we saw a decrease in the use of almost every class of antibiotics," says Dr. Linder." That's encouraging and may reflect that efforts already may be having some effect. But we need to keep an eye on it."