health

Antibiotic use among children declined in past decade

Meanwhile, prescriptions for some drugs, including ADHD medications and contraceptives, increased.

By — Posted June 29, 2012

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Efforts by health organizations to slow the spread of antibiotic resistance by reducing overuse of the drugs seem to be working, a new study says.

Although systemic antibiotics are the most frequently prescribed medication among people 17 and younger, prescriptions for the drugs decreased 14% in that age group between 2002 and 2010. The findings were published online June 18 in Pediatrics.

Prescriptions for the treatment of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, however, are rising among youths, up 46% during the same period. The increase comes as more children are being diagnosed with the condition.

About 5 million U.S. youths 4 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, which is up from about 4.4 million in 2003, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Health professionals said it is unclear what is driving the increase. “Our objective was to better understand pediatric drug utilization and provide insight into potential therapeutic needs for future pediatric drug development,” said study author Judy Staffa, PhD, RPh, director of the Division of Epidemiology at the Food and Drug Administration.

Identifying the most widely prescribed medications can help focus research efforts on drugs that could have a large impact on the pediatric population, the study authors wrote.

Researchers examined national outpatient prescription drug use among individuals 17 and younger between 2002 and 2010. They assessed data from two large prescription claims databases on medications dispensed from outpatient retail pharmacies in the U.S. The data do not indicate whether patients who picked up their medication actually used them.

Researchers found that 263.6 million prescriptions were dispensed to youths in 2010 compared with 283.3 million in 2002. The decline was driven, in part, by a drop in antibiotic prescribing, the study said (link).

Also decreasing during the past decade were prescriptions dispensed for allergies (61%), cough/cold without expectorant (42%), pain (14%) and depression (5%).

The most significant increase occurred among dispensed contraceptive prescriptions, which rose 93% during the study period. The uptick does not necessarily mean more girls are using contraceptives, the study said. It could indicate that girls are staying on the medication for a longer time period.

Also rising were prescriptions dispensed for oral corticosteroids (22%), asthma (14%), dermal corticosteroids (10%), and seizure disorder (10%).

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