GPs overprescribing antibiotics for asthma


By Nicola Garrett

11 Sep 2017

Children with asthma are more than one and a half times more likely to be prescribed antibiotics than children without asthma, a study reveals.

The findings suggest that asthma symptoms  are being mistaken for respiratory tract infections, or that antibiotics are being given as a preventative measure, contrary to evidence and global guidelines.

Lead author Dr Esmé Baan, from the department of medical informatics at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University in The Netherlands, told congress that the inappropriate use of antibiotics was bad for individuals, the entire population and made it harder to  control the spread of untreatable infections.

“Antibiotics should only be given when there is clear evidence of a bacterial infection such as for pneumonia. However, we saw that, in children with asthma, most of the antibiotic prescriptions in children were intended for asthma exacerbations or bronchitis, which are often caused by a virus rather than bacteria,” she told conference delegates.

“We should discourage GPs from prescribing unnecessary antibiotics or run the risk of more drug resistant infections in the future,” she added.

The study included 1.5 million children from the UK, including around 150,000 with asthma, and a further 375,000 from The Netherlands, including around 30,000 with asthma.

The researchers compared antibiotic prescription data from primary care databases for children with and without asthma and compared the situation in The Netherlands with that in the UK.

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