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Delayed prescribing strategy may help cut down on antibiotic use

As health care providers know, overuse of antibiotics is associated with a host of problems—from intestinal infections and other adverse effects to the development of resistant strains of bacteria. However, “delayed prescribing” promises to temper this trend.

The strategy, which involves giving a patient an order for antibiotics but asking them not to fill it unless their condition fails to improve in a few days, has already demonstrated safety and efficacy for common ear infections and for nasal congestion of sinusitis. New research published in BMJ indicates that delayed prescribing also may be appropriate for most respiratory tract infections.

Researchers reviewed data on more than 55,000 participants in 13 studies, finding that symptoms persisted for 11.4 days on average in patients who received delayed prescriptions—not much different from 10.9 days documented in patients who received antibiotics right away.

“A lot of these symptoms clear up in a few days anyway,” noted lead author Beth Stuart, an associate professor at England’s University of Southampton.

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