Objectives: Evidence from clinical trials questions the benefit-risk ratio of first-line antibiotic treatment for uncomplicated acute otitis media in childhood. Alternative treatment strategies are very popular but have not been the subject of larger controlled clinical trials. This trial compares an alternative with a conventional treatment strategy for acute otitis media.
Methods and patients: 390 children aged 1-10 years presenting with uncomplicated acute otitis media participated in a prospective, open, non-randomized, controlled, parallel-group study. According to self-assignment of investigators, children were treated either conventionally (free combinations of decongestant nose drops, mucolytics, analgesics and antibiotics) or alternatively with Otovowen (fixed combination of plant-based tinctures and homeopathic potencies), supplemented by conventional medications when considered necessary.
Results: Alternatively treated patients (n = 192) had significantly less severe otoscopic findings and clinical symptom ratings at baseline than children treated in conventional centers (n = 193). Patients cared for by conventional therapists took more antibiotics (80.5% vs. 14.4%; chi2-test, p < 0.001) and analgesics (66.8% vs. 53.2%; chi2-test, p = 0.007). Times to recovery were 5.3 +/- 2.4 and 5.1 +/- 2.2 days for alternative and conventional treatment, respectively. Odds ratios (OR) with a lower limit of 1-sided 97.5% confidence interval (CI) were 0.98 (0.76), 0.95 (0.73) and 0.88 (0.69) for results adjusted to baseline otoscopy, pain and symptom score, respectively (Cox-Mantel test). Absence from school or preschool nursery was 1.7 days in both groups; ORs (CI) were 1.00 (0.76), 0.96 (0.73) and 1.04 (0.80). Noninferiority of alternative treatment (CI limit of OR above 0.696) was not proven for pain resolution (-5.2 vs. -5.8 score points); OR (CI) were 0.87 (0.68), 1.15 (0.87) and 0.74 (0.58). Alternative treatment was judged both by doctors (Mann-Whitney estimator with 2-sided 95% CI 0.41 (0.35-0.47)) and parents (0.42 (0.36-0.48)), to be significantly better tolerated than conventional treatment.
Conclusions: In primary care management of uncomplicated acute otitis media in childhood, an alternative treatment strategy based on the natural medicine, Otovowen may substantially reduce the use of antibiotics without disadvantage to the clinical outcome.