Minerva

Antibiotics for sore throats and other stories . . .

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g1079 (Published 29 January 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g1079

Enter “sore throat antibiotics” on Google and you will get 142 million results, or if you try Medline you will get more than 4000. The latest contribution to this superabundant literature comes from many of the top names in British primary care research, who describe results from a prospective cohort of 11 950 adults presenting with sore throat (Lancet Infectious Diseases 2014; doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70294-9). Just 1.4% of them developed complications, mainly otitis media or sinusitis, and the number needed to treat (NNT) with immediate antibiotics to prevent complications was 193. However, to prevent a return consultation for persistence of symptoms rather than complications, a delayed prescription of antibiotics had a NNT of 18. Minerva wonders if there should now be a moratorium on further research on antibiotics for sore throat until existing findings have been mulled over and used to inform shared decision making with patients.

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