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Amoxicillin 'not more effective than using no medication'

A new study has found that amoxicillin, an antibiotic typically used to treat coughs and bronchitis, is no more effective than using no medication at all.

The research, carried out by scientists at the University of Southampton, shows that the antibiotic does not even help relieve symptoms of lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) in older people compared with using no medication.

As part of the study, the largest randomised placebo controlled trial of antibiotics for LRTI, 2,061 adults from across 12 countries in Europe were given either amoxicillin or a placebo three times a day for a week.

The doctors noted a minimal difference in the severity or duration of symptoms reported between the two groups, even for older patients.

Although more patients in the placebo group experienced new or worsening symptoms - 19.3% compared to 15.9% - just two patients needed hospital treatment. One person in the antibiotic group also required a hospital stay.

The study, which is published in Online First in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, also shows that almost three in 10 (28.7%) patients in the antibiotic group suffered side effects such as nausea, rash, and diorrhoea, compared with around a quarter (24%) of those taking the placebo.

Paul Little, who lead the UK research, said: “Patients given amoxicillin don’t recover much quicker or have significantly fewer symptoms.

“Using amoxicillin to treat respiratory infections in patients not suspected of having pneumonia is not likely to help and could be harmful.”

He added that the results show most people are able to get better on their own although antibiotics remain useful for a small number of patients.

Readers' comments (9)

  • I was given amoxyl for a chest infection last year which was completely ineffective so had to have a course of other antibiotics afterwards - waste of time and money.

    just out of interest, if we pick up a chest infection is it hospital acquired or community acquired? the treatment is different for both and I thought it more likely I had a HAI as I work in a respiratory ward and everyone had chest infections at that time.

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  • i visited my GP yesterday. Following a cold last week this week i have a hacking cough.
    We both agreed i didn't need antibiotics.

    Whilst there he seized the opportunity to stop my HRT saying that a woman of my age would have finished the menopause by now. Apparently he can make this proclamation by just looking at me and my age.

    I asked him 'are you sure' as he wiped the px from his computer. He was adamant. I was too weak from coughing to argue with him.

    I hope that young GP is right, because God help him if next month without the aid of being artificially sustained on mood stabilising hormones the other me shows up gripping her axe totally out of control. They are 2 different women.

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  • I thought chest infections were mostly viral, in which case why are antibiotics being prescribed when they are ineffective against viruses? This is only going to improve bacteria's resistance to antibiotics in future until we reach the stage when they will not work for anything

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  • Anonymous | 22-Dec-2012 12:13 pm

    try educating GPs and junior hospital doctors!

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  • I recall begging my GP for amox during a chest infection which was not getting better. I had history of responding well to amox. He reluctantly prescribed it and lo and behold I did respond to it. My immune system was compromised due to stress and lack of sleep and needed the extra help.

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  • Anonymous 22/12/1:13 - or it was just coincidence.....

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  • Anonymous 22/12 11.06am

    Has your GP not heard of "concordance", where prescribing decisions are made in consultation with the patient and with a clear rationale so that both parties understand and hopefully are in agreement with the decision? Had he said, "come back when you feel better as we should discuss your HRT"....surely that would be the better option.

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  • The easy reaction to the article would be to abandon amoxicillin - especially in the context of overprescribing a/bs and the resultant bacterial resistance. However, it works effectively for some so it wouldn't be responsible to throw the baby out c. the bathwater. Surely prudent and intelligent prescribing is the answer here.

    As for the HRT lady: I'd suggest changing your GP - perhaps to a female one. It sounds as if he's fresh out of med. school and hasn't grasped the need to avoid assumptions or making precipitate decisions - or even been tutored in communication and interpersonal skills!!

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  • tinkerbell

    i don't know why my comments are being posted as 'anonymous' today they were tinkerbell the other day regarding HRT.

    It was only 2 years ago when another GP ran blood tests that showed i haven't even started the menopause and described it as a 'miracle'.

    Never mind.

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