The role of betamethasone in the treatment of acute exudative pharyngitis

Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Jun;5(6):567-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02462.x.


Objective: To compare betamethasone with placebo as an adjuvant to antibiotic therapy in the treatment of acute exudative pharyngitis.

Methods: The study was a randomized, doubled-blind, placebo-controlled, single-center, parallel, outpatient clinical trial. After consent was obtained, each patient was asked to rate his or her pain on a 10-cm numbered visual analog scale (VAS; 0-10). All of the patients received injectable benzathine penicillin. If allergic to penicillin, they were started on a 10-day course of polyenteric-coated erythromycin (PCE). Each patient was randomized to receive either i.m. betamethasone or i.m. placebo. All patients were contacted by telephone at 24 and 48 hours by one of the study investigators and asked to rate their pain based on another VAS. If their pain was not resolved by 48 hours, they were called again daily between the third and seventh days after the initial visit to determine the time of pain resolution.

Results: A total of 92 patients were enrolled in the study, with 46 randomized to receive placebo and 46 to receive betamethasone. Eight patients were excluded from the statistical analysis because of inability to obtain follow-up. Demographic comparison showed that gender distributions, ages, mean initial pain scores, mean times to the first and second follow-up calls, and treatment regimens were similar in the 2 groups. There were significantly better pain scores for the betamethasone group at first follow-up (p = 0.0005), at second follow-up (p = 0.004), and in number of hours until relief of pain (p = 0.004). When only those patients with a positive culture for a streptococcus species were analyzed, there also were significant reductions in pain score at the first (p = 0.006) and second (p = 0.02) follow-up visits.

Conclusion: Pain relief was greater and more rapid in patients treated with betamethasone as an adjuvant therapy in acute exudative pharyngitis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Betamethasone / therapeutic use*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Penicillin G Benzathine / therapeutic use
  • Penicillins / therapeutic use
  • Pharyngitis / drug therapy*
  • Pharyngitis / microbiology
  • Pharyngitis / physiopathology
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Streptococcal Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Penicillins
  • Betamethasone
  • Penicillin G Benzathine