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Antibiotics: Overused for Sore Throats?

Many Kids Are Getting Antibiotic Treatments When They Don't Have Strep Throat

The Wrong Drugs continued...

But newer, nonrecommended antibiotics were prescribed to 27% of the patients who received an antibiotic. Linder speculates that the physicians and/or parents mistakenly believed that "newer" meant better.

"The irony is that the bug that causes strep throat is sometimes resistant to these newer antibiotics, but it is never resistant to penicillin," he says. "Penicillin is well tolerated, inexpensive, and it has a narrow spectrum of activity, meaning that it targets the bug that causes strep throat and little else."

The bottom line, Linder says, is that most kids with sore throats probably shouldn't be taking antibiotics, and a strep test should always be given before antibiotics are prescribed.

J. Todd Weber, MD, who directs the Office of Antimicrobial Resistance at the CDC, agrees.

Weber tells WebMD that he believes doctors and the lay public have gotten the message about the dangers of antibiotic overuse for society. But that may not be translating to the care of the individual patient.

He says doctors need better tools to help them determine which patients will and will not benefit from antibiotics. And they need to make better use of the tools they have, like the strep test.

"If we are going to get serious about preserving the effectiveness of [antibiotics] we have to employ the tests we have -- and we don't have many -- that can reliably determine if the drugs are needed."

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