Infectious Diseases Society of America

  1. Antibiotics no longer recommended for sinus infections

    Finally, a little common sense when it comes to antibiotics: A leading medical group is urging docs to stop using these drugs for sinus infections.

    Right now, roughly 15 percent of us suffer these infections every year -- and most are given 10 days of amoxicillin for it, despite the fact that up to 98 percent of all sinus infections are caused by viruses.

    And antibiotics, as I'm sure you know, are worthless against viruses.

    Now, the Infectious Diseases Society of America is telling docs to quit it -- because the overuse of these drugs comes with some serious risks.

    Along with the added costs to medical care, the drugs expose patients to side effects for no good reason. The most well known and immediate, of course, is diarrhea.

    But these drugs also pack a bigger risk that you might not feel right away. They kill off nearly all of the bacteria in your stomach, including many of the good bugs you need to stay healthy.

    And that can cause more than just stomach problems, since there's increasing evidence that imbalances in gut flora can play a role in everything from mental illness to muscular disorders.

    Call it one more reason to make sure you take a probiotic whenever you take an antibiotic.

    But that's just the impact on a personal level -- and that's small potatoes compared to the big picture here. The overuse of antibiotics has led to the rise of drug-resistant superbugs, and that affects all of us... whether we've taken these meds or not.

    Sinus infections are actually a case in point.

    They're the fifth most common reason these drugs are used, and the main one -- the amoxicillin I mentioned earlier -- is losing effectiveness in the small percentage of infections that really are caused by bacteria.

    As a result, the new treatment guidelines call for a different antibiotic in the rare cases they're actually needed, amoxicillin-clavulanate instead of amoxicillin, and for five days instead of 10.

    The change for antibiotics alone is revolutionary -- but they didn't stop there. The Society is also calling on docs to stop dishing out all the other meds commonly recommended for sinus patients, including the decongestants and antihistamines that have been proven to actually make the condition worse.

    Instead, one of the new recommendations is for nasal irrigation with a sterile solution -- an honest-to-goodness all-natural remedy.

    Of course, issuing new guidelines is only half the battle.

    Now let's see if docs actually follow them.

  2. What your Ob-Gyn doesn't want you to know

    You might think medical guidelines are based on years of clinical evidence and gold-standard research. After all, doctors use them every single day to make life-or-death decisions.

    In reality, they're based on the whims and fancies of the medical elite... and that's especially true when it comes to women's health.

    A new study finds that nearly a third of 717 practice recommendations issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists are based solely on expert opinions -- with another 38 percent driven by the kind of weak observational studies I'm always warning you to take with a grain of salt.

    All told, just 30 percent of the guidelines obediently followed by 50,000+ ACOG doctors are based on gold-standard clinical trials.

    That's it.

    In other words, there's not a lot of "evidence" in the "evidence-based medicine" touted by the mainstream. But it does help answer some of the questions I've had about ACOG.

    This is, after all, the same group that issued a defiant new call for more frequent mammograms -- despite solid evidence that those screenings have led to the mass overtreatment of benign tumors. (Read about that here.)

    Those guidelines have punished a generation of women with disfiguring mastectomies and toxic radiation -- but as I've told you before, they've barely made a dent in the breast cancer death rate. (Read the story here.)

    ACOG isn't the only group issuing guidelines despite a lack of clinical evidence to back them up: One study earlier this year found that six out of seven guidelines issued by the Infectious Diseases Society of America had no solid research behind them.

    That's why docs were told to pump patients full of antibiotics the moment they even suspected pneumonia in a patient -- a practice that fueled the overuse of the meds and helped breed drug-resistant superbugs... without actually improving outcomes.

    And in even more outrageous cases, guidelines are written under the watchful eye of "experts" with a direct financial stake in the outcome -- like many of those issued by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology between 2003 and 2008. (Read about it here.)

    Put it all together, and the sad reality is that the deck is stacked against you before you even set foot in the doctor's office -- and that's why whenever your doctor gives you a treatment, you need to stop and ask him why before you follow his orders.

    I'll have more on the questions you need to ask during any trip to a doctor later this week.

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