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Antibiotic use should be reduced, doctors say

PHILADELPHIA — Doctors should not prescribe antibiotics for most colds, coughs and sore throats because they don't help and their overuse is making them less effective against other infections, the nation's second-largest doctors' group said Monday.

For most healthy adults, the best treatment for bronchitis, most sinus infections, colds and coughs is over-the-counter cold remedies, according to the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.

Experts have warned for a decade that overuse of antibiotics is causing germs become resistant to drugs.

"If we can lower our total antibiotic consumption by 20 or 30 percent, we can show an effect in changing the rate of prevalence in these resistance organisms," said Dr. Ralph Gonzales of the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to half of the 133 million doses of antibiotics administered daily outside hospitals are unnecessary because they are being prescribed for viral infections that don't respond to antibiotics.

The Food and Drug Administration has proposed requiring labels on antibiotics reminding doctors to prescribe them only when truly necessary.

Doctors often feel pressured to prescribe antibiotics when they are not needed because patients demand them, said Dr. Vincenza Snow, senior medical associate at the American College of Physicians.

The guidelines, presented in Monday's Annals of Internal Medicine, are intended for treatment of healthy adults, and not for patients over age 65 or people with long-term medical conditions such as diabetes.

They were developed by a panel of doctors assembled by the CDC and led by Gonzales. The American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine represents 115,000 physicians.

On the Net: Annals of Internal Medicine: