A multi-centre, pragmatic, three-arm, individually randomised, non-inferiority, open trial to compare immediate orally administered, immediate topically administered or delayed orally administered antibiotics for acute otitis media with discharge in children: The Runny Ear Study (REST): Study protocol

Kathryn Curtis, Michael Moore, Christie Cabral, Vasa Curcin, Jeremey Horwood, Richard Morris, Vibhore Prasad, Anne Schilder, Nicholas Turner, Scott Wilkes, Alastair D. Hay, Jodi Taylor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Acute otitis media (AOM) is a common painful infection in children, with around 2.8 million cases presenting to primary care in England and Wales annually. Nearly all children who present to their general practitioner (GP) with AOM or AOM with discharge (AOMd) are treated with orally administered antibiotics. These can cause side effects; contribute to the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance, and more rarely, allergic reactions. Alternative treatments, such as an antibiotic eardrops, or 'delayed' orally administered antibiotics, could be at least as effective and safe as immediate orally administered antibiotics for children with AOMd. Methods/design: REST is a pragmatic, three-arm, individually randomised, non-inferiority trial being conducted in 175 GP practices across the United Kingdom (UK). The study aims to recruit 399 children aged (≥ 12 months and < 16 years) presenting to their GP with AOMd. Children will be randomised to one of three arms: immediate ciprofloxacin 0.3% eardrops; delayed orally administered amoxicillin (clarithromycin if penicillin allergic) or immediate orally administered amoxicillin (clarithromycin). Recruitment, including eligibility screening, randomisation and data collection, are conducted using the innovative, TRANSFoRm electronic trial management platform. Integrated within the primary care electronic medical records it provides automatic eligibility checking, part-filling of e-CRFs, study workflow management and routine NHS follow-up data collection. The primary outcome is time to resolution of all significant symptoms and will be collected by the parent using a Symptom Recovery Questionnaire (SRQ). Secondary outcomes, including cost-effectiveness, duration of moderately bad or worse symptoms and repeat AOMd episodes, will be collected at day-14 and at 3 months. Discussion: It is unclear whether prescribing orally administered antibiotics to children with AOMd results in a reduction in symptoms or a shorter duration of illness. The REST trial should allow us to compare the non-inferiority of: immediate topically administered ciprofloxacin ear drops, or delayed orally administered amoxicillin (clarithromycin) against immediate orally administered amoxicillin (clarithromycin). We aim to recruit 399 patients from 175 practices in the UK. Using the TRANSFoRm software to randomise participants to the trial will enable recruitment for a relatively uncommon condition. Trial registration: Name of Registry: ISCRTN Registration Number: ISRCTN12873692. This contains all items required to comply with the World Health Organization Trial Registration Data Set Date of Registration: 24 April 2018 Name of Registry: EudraCT Registration Number: 2017-003635-10 Date of Registration: 6 September 2017

Original languageEnglish
Article number463
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2020


  • Acute otitis media
  • Antibiotics
  • Paediatrics
  • Primary care
  • Randomised controlled trial

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