Study Finds No Change in Inappropriate Antibiotic Prescribing for Sore Throat

Visits to primary care physicians by adults with sore throats decreased between 1997 and 2010 but there was no change in the overall national antibiotic prescribing rate, according to a research letter by Michael L. Barnett, M.D., and Jeffrey A. Linder, M.D., M.P.H., of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.

The prevalence of group A Streptococcus (GAS) – a common cause of sore throat requiring antibiotics – is about 10 percent among adults seeking care from their physicians. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups have worked to reduce inappropriate antibiotic prescribing.

The authors analyzed ambulatory care visits to measure changes in antibiotic prescribing for adults. Their study included a sample of 8,191 sore throat visits to primary care practices and emergency departments (EDs) between 1997 and 2010.

Study findings indicate that sore throat visits to primary care practices decreased from 7.5 percent to 4.3 percent between 1997 and 2010, although there was no change in the proportion of visits to EDs (2.2 percent in 1997 and 2.3 percent in 2010). Physicians prescribed antibiotics at 60 percent of the visits, with penicillin prescribing remaining stable at 9 percent of visits.

(JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 3, 2013. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.11673.