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Sinus infections treated with antibiotics for too long, CDC says

By Allen Cone
Sinus infections treated with antibiotics for too long, CDC says
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found primary care providers are prescribing antibiotics for sinus infections too many days longer than recommended by clinical practice guidelines. Photo by moritz320/Pixabay

March 27 (UPI) -- Primary care providers are prescribing antibiotics for sinus infections for many days longer than recommended by clinical practice guidelines, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sinusitis is the most common condition for which outpatient antibiotic treatment is prescribed, according to the CDC.

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In the study, published Tuesday in the Journal of American Medical Association's journal Internal Medicine, researchers found that adults were treated with antibiotics for 10 days or longer, although the Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends five to seven days for uncomplicated cases.

At least 2 million people become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics each year and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections, according to the CDC.

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The federal agency studied almost 3.7 million visits by adults to physicians where antibiotics were prescribed for acute sinusitis in a 2016 national index. A total of 69.6 percent of antibiotic prescriptions and 91.5 percent of non-azithromycin antibiotic prescriptions were for 10 days or longer.

Also, more than 20 percent of antibiotic prescriptions for sinus infections were for five days of azithromycin -- this, despite guidelines recommending against prescribing azithromycin because of high rates of existing resistance to this drug and others in its class.

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For penicillin, tetracycline or fluoroquinolones, 5 percent of antibiotic prescriptions were for a seven-day course and none were for five days.

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While the the authors noted they couldn't account for underlying conditions or other indicators that may have called for a longer course of antibiotics, the data still suggests overuse of antibiotics in the case of sinus infections.

"Despite prescribing guidelines, some healthcare professionals report giving antibiotics when they aren't needed because of fear of misdiagnosis or pressure from patients," Dr. Lauri Hicks, director of the Office of Antibiotic Stewardship, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at CDC, said last November in a statement. "CDC encourages healthcare professionals and patients to talk through the best ways to feel better and what treatment options are most effective."

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