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Honey ‘more effective’ than antibiotics for coughs, finds new study

Pulse reports that new research has found that honey is ‘moreeffective’than ‘usual’treatments such asantibiotics to treat symptoms of upperrespiratorytractinfections(URTIs).It followsa2018 draft NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guideline that said GPs shouldrecommendhoney,herbalremedies and coughmedicines as first-linetreatment for acutecough.

The new study, published today in the BMJ Evidence-Based Medicinejournal  concluded that honey is a ‘reasonable alternative’ to antibiotics and other treatments for URTI symptoms such as cough, sore throat and congestion.

Researchers at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences and the Oxford University Medical School conducted a systematic review of 1345 unique records and 14 clinical trials on honey’s efficacy as a treatment for URTI symptoms in patients of all ages in any setting.

Honey was found to result in a ‘significantly greater’ reduction in cough frequency and severity as well as ‘combined symptom score’, compared with ‘usual care’, the study said.

It added: “Honey is more effective and less harmful than usual care alternatives and avoids causing harm through antimicrobial resistance.”

The reserchers recommended honey as a ‘widely-available’ and cheap alternative for GPs who ‘wish to prescribe for URTI’ but are faced with ‘very few effective options’.

They added: “Research shows that most usual care therapies produce no, or relatively small, improvements in URTI symptoms.

“Given that a lack of alternative therapies and a desire to protect the patient-doctor relationshipo are two key contributors to antibiotic over-prescription by general practioners, our finding that honey may be effective is important in the clinical context: honey is a reasonable alternative.”

However, the study found that comparisons with placebos are ‘more limited’ and more high-quality controlled trials are needed to investigate this.

The Government has been pursuing a drive to ensure  GPs avoid unnecessary antibiotic prescribing in a bid to control antimicrobial resistance by 2040, which has already resulted in a17% drop in GP antibiotic prescribing since 2014.


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