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Treating Otitis Media a Trade-Off Between Cost, Relief

Cheapest option entails holding off on antibiotics for 72 hours

FRIDAY, Feb. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The range of treatment options for otitis media reflect a trade-off between cost and relief of symptoms, according to study findings published in the January/February issue of the Annals of Family Medicine.

Andrew S. Coco, M.D., of Lancaster General Hospital in Lancaster, Pa., conducted a cost-effectiveness analysis of treating children aged 6 months to 12 years for otitis media with one of four options: a seven- to 10-day course of amoxicillin, five days of amoxicillin, delayed prescription and watchful waiting.

The cheapest option was to delay prescription of antibiotics for the first 72 hours. The most effective option was an immediate seven- to 10-day course of antibiotics but this added a $56,000 incremental cost utility ratio per quality-adjusted life-year gained. The other two options were considered inferior.

Although immediate treatment with antibiotics was the most effective option, the author emphasizes the advantages of delayed prescription. "Delayed prescription, the least costly option, would not only save the health service industry considerable expense but would also promote demedicalization of a common, primarily self-limiting acute upper respiratory infection and lessen antibiotic resistance," he concludes.

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