Each year, millions of children visit their family physician or pediatrician seeking treatment for sore throats. While a sore throat could indicate many common illnesses, physicians are often most concerned about bacterial infections that warrant antibiotic treatments. The most common cause of sore throat for which antibiotics are indicated is group A streptococcal pharyngitis, or “strep throat.” Many leading health organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics indicate that a common streptococcal or “strep” test be performed prior to prescribing recommended antibiotics.
For years, physicians have been concerned about the over- prescription of antibiotics and now, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and Children’s Hospital Boston have found that despite clear guidelines, physicians prescribed antibiotics in 53 percent of cases. This represents significantly more prescriptions than what is expected for actual rates – 15 to 36 percent – of strep throat among kids with sore throat. Details of this research were published in the Nov. 9, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to lead author Jeffrey A. Linder, MD, MPH, a BWH internist, “This study demonstrates that children with sore throat are frequently given unnecessary antibiotics. This over- prescribing of antibiotics could be easily remedied by following known guidelines, which include doing a simple, inexpensive strep test before giving antibiotics. This is critical for not just children but all patients as unnecessary prescription of antibiotics can lead to a variety of issues including increased costs, the potential development of antibiotic resistant bacteria and adverse drug effects.”
This study was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.