Over-the-counter eye drop sales shoot up, but do little good

November 30th, 2009 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 30 (IANS) The use of antibiotic eye drops for conjunctivitis has increased by almost half since they became available over the counter in 2005, says new data.
This is despite the fact that evidence from clinical trials from around the same time showed the eye drops to have minimal benefit.

“It’s very important that antibiotics aren’t used where they’re not needed,” says Peter Rose of the University of Oxford, who led the research.

“We’ve shown that selling eye drops over the counter for conjunctivitis has resulted in greater use at the same time as the evidence showed they have little benefit,” he said.

In 2005, three separate clinical trials (including one by the Oxford group) compared the use of antibiotic eye drops against placebo for treating conjunctivitis.

The consensus of these results in both children and adults was that the eye drops did little to speed resolution of the conjunctivitis in the majority of cases. Around 80 percent of cases of conjunctivitis get better by themselves, says an Oxford release.

Following the results of these trials, the number of prescriptions for eye drops made by GPs has gradually dropped, but this has been more than made up by the increase in sales by pharmacists.

These findings were published in the British Journal of General Practice.

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