Sinus infection drugs called no help

Study says antibiotics don't cure patients, might even hurt them

December 05, 2007|By Jia-Rui Chong | Jia-Rui Chong,Los Angeles Times

The widespread use of standard antibiotics to treat sinus infections does not help cure patients and may harm them by increasing their resistance to the drugs, according to a new study published today.

The researchers found that the percentage of patients who got well in 10 days was about the same whether they took an antibiotic or a placebo.

"With a little bit of patience, the body will usually heal itself," said Dr. Ian Williamson, a family medicine researcher at the University of Southampton in England and lead author of the paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The results showed patients should be more willing to forgo antibiotics, though they should check with their doctors when a cold worsens into a sinus infection, he said.

Dr. Daniel Merenstein, a family physician at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., who was not involved in the study, said the study provided more evidence of the overuse of antibiotics, which has caused serious problems with drug resistance.

More than 80 percent of American physicians prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections, he said. Recent studies also have shown antibiotics are unnecessary for treating ear infections and bronchitis. "Now people know ... we should just give supportive care," such as pain relievers and saline nasal mists, Merenstein said.

Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses that develops as a complication from a cold. Allergies can also cause sinusitis, but researchers in this study focused on cases likely caused by bacteria.

Bacterial cases often lead to localized pain in the face and thick discharges from the nose, with more coming from one nostril.

In the latest study, Williamson and his group looked at about 200 sick adults from family practice offices around southwestern England. Of the 100 patients who took the antibiotic amoxicillin, 29 percent had symptoms lasting 10 or more days. Of the 107 patients taking a placebo, about 34 percent of patients had symptoms of a similar length. Researchers called the difference insignificant.

Jia-Rui Chong writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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