Cold Kits Cut Antibiotic Use

They may reduce unnecessary prescriptions, study says

FRIDAY, March 12, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Cough and cold care kits that include over-the-counter medicines appear to greatly reduce unnecessary antibiotic use, claims a study by researchers from the Minnesota Antibiotic Resistance Collaborative (MARC).

"Providing cough and cold care kits does appear to be a useful tool to use with patients who have upper respiratory illness or acute bronchitis to decrease unnecessary antibiotic use," researcher Pamela Gahr, of the Minnesota Department of Health, says in a prepared statement.

The kits include pain relievers, decongestant, cough syrup, lozenges, a packet of powdered chicken soup, and a tea bag. During the 2001-2002 winter season, six local health plans in Minnesota distributed about 31,000 of the kits through their clinics.

"MARC was interested in a cost-benefit analysis. The health plans were spending a lot of money on these kits and were wondering if they were having any effect," Gahr says.

She and her colleagues compared the percentage of people with upper respiratory illnesses or acute bronchitis who filled prescriptions after they had visited clinics that distributed the kits to people who visited clinics that did not hand out the cough and cold care kits.

People who went to the clinics distributing the kits were much less likely to fill a prescription for antibiotics within three days of their visit than people who went to clinics that didn't hand out the kits.

"The inappropriate use of antibiotics to treat viral illnesses is though to be a key factor in the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," Gahr says.

She notes that acute bronchitis and upper respiratory infections are generally caused by viral infections. Antibiotics, which are effective only against bacteria, are not proper treatment for viral infections.

In most cases, rest and over-the-counter medications are the best ways to deal with such cases.

The research was presented at the recent International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about antibiotics.

SOURCE: American Society for Microbiology, news release, March 2004
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