The American Academy of Pediatrics announced the results of an FDA study today, stating that use of antibiotics for infants, children and adolescents has decreased. This is good news, because there are worries of superbugs building from overuse and incorrect use of the drugs.
Amoxicillin, one of the staple antibiotics, was the most frequently dispensed, for infants (0-23 months) and children (2-11 years). In total there were 263.6 million prescriptions to the pediatric population, which was 7% lower than 2002, while at the same time adult prescriptions increased 22% over the same time period. The most used drug for adolescents (12-17 years) was Methylphenidate, a psychostimulant drug used for treatment of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and narcolepsy. The drug is also considered useful for lethargy, depression, and obesity.
Researchers say that more analysis of the data could lead to a better understanding of wider trends in public health, and better approaches to treatment.
The authors reported the following drug utilization trends from 2002 and 2010 among US children
- a fall of 14% : Systemic antibiotics
- a fall of 61% : Allergies
- a fall of 14% : Pain
- a fall of 5% : Depression
- a fall of 42% : Cough/cold without expectorant
- a rise of 14% : Asthma
- a rise of 46% : Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- a rise of 93% : Contraceptive
Doctors continue to prescribe more medications for ADHD symptoms in children
The information was gathered from two large commercial prescription and patient databases which essentially covered two-thirds of all outpatient pharmacies and is thought to make up about half of all prescriptions in the United States. The noticeable drop in prescriptions for allergies may well stem from the popularity of over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as loratadine (Claritin) and cetirizine (Zyrtec), which became widely available in 2002 and 2007 respectively.
Contraceptives being prescribed more oftenContraceptive use rose 88% in girls under the age of 18, which probably reflects social trends and a more sexually liberated attitude amongst young people, combined with a better awareness and less stigma. Third generation contraceptive pills, despite some associated health risks, have been widely touted as regulating the menstrual cycle and helping to reduce period pains, so this might also explain physicians offering more prescriptions to underage girls. Researchers speculated that as the pill can also be used to treat acne, it could explain a part of the increase.
Overall the figures are useful for targeting future drug research, as well as helping to educate physicians as to areas of practice. The researchers caution that the information does not include in-patient data or mail order, both of which have increased widely. Neither does it consider OTC and dietary supplement usage, so while it provides a fair part of the picture, there are obviously more details needed to fully describe the needs and habits of doctors, patients and consumers in the OTC market.
Written by Rupert Shepherd