For throat infections, you can buy over-the-counter antibiotic-containing sucking tablets from pharmacies. But are they really that effective?
Even before the coronavirus outbreak in the winter and spring, many people were experiencing upper respiratory symptoms. There are a number of over-the-counter remedies on the shelves that can relieve these symptoms, and most people don’t even go to the doctor until the illness has passed. Among the targeted, topical agents, sucking tablets are popular, which can relieve symptoms with antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anaesthetic components. Many of these products also contain antibiotics, but for more information on how this can work, see the PirulaKalauz.
Can it increase antibiotic resistance?
In these products, the antibiotic acts locally, i.e. the active substance released from the tablets is directly absorbed into the mucous membrane of the pharynx to fight the pathogens, and the unused substance is absorbed into the intestinal tract and then eliminated. The only active substance on the market in Hungary that is considered an antibiotic is triotricin. Although these agents act locally and are eliminated from the body more quickly, their use may not be completely harmless.
Surprisingly, there is insufficient literature on the topical use of these agents and little documentation on the potential risks. And one of the major risks, the incidence of antibiotic resistance, has not been studied at all for these products. Yet drug-resistant strains are a growing problem worldwide, killing nearly 700,000 people every year.
It is not known exactly whether topical antibiotics for sore throats can cause resistance, as no specific study has yet been carried out. Resistance to triothricin, which is also marketed in Hungary, can be induced artificially under laboratory conditions, but resistance in patients has not been reported in the literature.
It is not known how effective the antibiotic is
There is no clear research evidence on the efficacy of topical antibiotics in preparations. Although the research so far has shown that patients’ condition improved after taking the drugs, all the products tested contained active ingredients other than antibiotics. The effect observed cannot therefore be attributed to the antibiotics alone.
The usefulness of antibiotic tablets for throat infections is therefore questionable. This is especially true given that nearly 80 percent of sore throat cases are caused by a virus against which antibiotics are ineffective. It is therefore advisable to choose throat decongestants that do not contain antibiotics, but anti-inflammatory preparations and herbal teas (chamomile, mallow) can also help. However, if the symptoms worsen, it is advisable to consult your GP, as antibiotics may also be justified.