Editorials

Antibiotics for upper respiratory tract infections and conjunctivitis in primary care

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.333.7563.311 (Published 10 August 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:311
  1. Remco P Rietveld, general practitioner (r.p.rietveld@amc.uva.nl),
  2. Patrick J E Bindels, professor of general practice,
  3. Gerben ter Riet, epidemiologist
  1. Division of Clinical Methods and Public Health, Department of General Practice, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  2. Division of Clinical Methods and Public Health, Department of General Practice, Academic Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam, Netherlands
  3. Horten Centre, University of Zürich, Switzerland

    Reconsideration of prescription policy is needed

    Although upper respiratory tract infections and acute infective conjunctivitis are minor illnesses that are usually self limiting, the use of antibiotics in these disorders is high.14 Two papers in the BMJ by Arroll and Kenealy and Everitt and colleagues help clarify the role of antibiotics in the treatment of uncomplicated upper respiratory tract infections and acute infective conjunctivitis in primary care.5 6

    Randomised controlled trials and meta-analyses of such trials have shown that antibiotics provided mainly short term benefit and the reduction in symptoms was too limited to justify the use of antibiotics for these minor disorders.14 The number needed to treat to reduce pain at two to seven days in children with acute otitis media is 15 (95% confidence interval 11 to 24) and the number needed to treat to cure one patient with a sore throat at one week is 14 (12 to 21).1 2 This is also true for the common cold and acute infectious conjunctivitis.3 4

    The …

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