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Antibiotic Use in Children Leveling Off

​The number of children taking antibiotics has decreased over the past decade, but has leveled off in recent years in certain age groups and geographic locations.

In a study in the February 2014 Pediatrics, “Recent Trends in Outpatient Antibiotic Use in Children,” (published online Feb. 3) study authors reviewed pharmacy and outpatient claims over a 10-year period (2000-2010) in three health plans located in three different geographic locations to determine the number of antibiotics dispensed each year for children aged 3 months to 18 years.

The results were further broken down by health plan, year, and diagnosis. Although the overall antibiotic-dispensing rate in each age group and health plan was lower in 2009-2010 than in 2000-2001, the rate of decline in antibiotic use has slowed. The highest rate of antibiotic use was in children 3 months to under 24 months of age in all years of the study. Children in this age group experienced the largest overall decline in antibiotic use between 2000-2001 and 2009-2010. Otitis media was the most common diagnosis in which antibiotics were prescribed for children under 6 years of age, and respiratory tract infections (including otitis media) accounted for over 75 percent of all antibiotics prescribed for children under 12 years of age. Concern was expressed over increases in third generation cephalosporin and second generation macrolide use.

The study authors conclude that the downward trend in antibiotic use in children may have reached a plateau, and continued improvements in judicious antibiotic dispensing are needed.

Editor’s Note: A related commentary, “Reducing Unnecessary Antibiotics Prescribed to Children: What Next?” also appears in the February 2014 Pediatrics issue.

Additional Information:

2/3/2014 12:15 AM
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