Stop Giving Antibiotics for Sniff Les, Doctors Told

Article excerpt

Byline: Daniel Martin

DOCTORS will be told not to hand out antibiotics for coughs, sore throats and colds under guidelines to be unveiled today.

GPs have been accused of wasting more than [pounds sterling]100million on the drugs every year for patients with respiratory tract infections.

Rationing watchdog the National Institute for Clinical Excellence said today that the vast majority of cases would clear up on their own.

Adults should simply 'take a rest' while children should be offered 'love and attention'.

And NICE warned that putting patients on antibiotics placed them at needless risk of side effects such as nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Experts also believe that overuse of antibiotics could be a major factor behind the spread of superbugs such as MRSA because it prompts harmful bacteria to develop resistance, and could make it harder to treat serious conditions in the future.

In 2007, GPs wrote 38million prescriptions for antibiotics, costing the Health Service [pounds sterling]175million.

NICE said 60 per cent of these were for patients with respiratory tract infections meaning around [pounds sterling]105million was wasted.

Colds are caused by viruses, which means that antibiotics, which work only against bacteria, are useless.

Earlier this year, Britain's chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said that between 25 and 35 per cent of treatments were unnecessary and did not cure common infections.

Around a quarter of the population visits the GP every year because of a respiratory tract infection.

Professor Paul Little, who drew up the guidelines, said: 'Management of respiratory tract infections in the past concentrated on advising prompt antibiotic treatment.

'However, as rates of major complications are much less common in modern developed countries, so the evidence of symptomatic benefit should be strong to justify prescribing antibiotics so that we are not needlessly exposing patients to side effects.'

The NICE guidance said GPs should reassure patients that antibiotics are not needed immediately because they will make little difference to symptoms and may have side effects. …