July 14th, 2017 by Sepehr Oliaei, MD

Anyone who has ever had a bout of chronic sinusitis or a child with numerous middle ear infections requiring round after round of antibiotics knows the toll that amoxicillin and other oral antibiotics can take on the body.

There has been a growing trend in the recent years away from aggressive use of pharmaceutical drugs and towards treatments with lower side effect profile. This has been a natural reaction to known (and unknown) short-term and long-term side effects of many medications. The problem with alternative treatments, however, is that they are not always as effective as the first choice. Physicians have grappled with this issue for years.

But what if you could use your first choice antibiotic or other medication,  — perhaps even at a higher concentration — and deliver it directly to the tissue that is affected (for example the middle ear or the sinuses) without that drug reaching the rest of the body at all?

That is what is being addressed today with new innovations in topical drug delivery.

The idea of topical antibiotic delivery is certainly not new. Placing ear tubes in children with recurrent ear infections is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and it has been in practice for decades. Ear tubes are a very easy way to deliver a high concentration of antibiotic ear drops to the space behind the ear drum where the infection resides, resulting in a highly effective treatment without any of the associated reactions of oral antibiotics.

Variations on this idea are now in use, or being developed, for treating chronic infectious and allergic disorders of the nose and sinuses. Saline (salt water) rinses are a traditional natural remedy for hygiene and maintenance of the sinuses and has been highly effective using various forms of delivery that are readily available at retail stores and pharmacies, such as Neti pots, squeeze bottles, and so on. Modern advances in anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial treatments have allowed us to take compounded topical drugs, add these to saline rinse bottles and deliver them directly into the sinuses with minimal to no absorption in the rest of the body. This provides an effective treatment with fewer side effects!

Are the days of brightly colored elixirs and tablets for treatment of various ailments over? Not quite, but at least we now have some alternatives. For more information, ask your physicians about the availability of topical alternatives to anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and even non-steroidal pain medications.

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