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Kids Getting Antibiotics Less, Study Finds

June 19, 2002|From Reuters

CHICAGO -- Researchers on Tuesday reported a dramatic drop in antibiotic prescriptions for children, a development they called good news in the fight to keep germs from becoming resistant to overused drugs.

"The results of this study are very encouraging," said David Fleming, acting director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"However, antimicrobial resistance remains a major public health problem, so we must continue to stress the importance of using antibiotics effectively," he said.

The CDC study, published in this week's Journal of the American Medical Assn., came from a survey of office-based physicians. It found that the number of antibiotic prescriptions for children fell from 46 million in 1989 to 30 million in 2000, even though the number of office visits remained constant.

The agents covered in the survey included penicillin and erythromycin, among others. Antibiotics are the most frequently prescribed drugs for children, used to treat such ills as sore throat, upper respiratory tract infection, inflammation of the middle ear and bronchitis.

"It's a dramatic decline," said Linda F. McCaig, an epidemiologist at the National Center for Health Statistics, the organization that regularly surveys the prescribing behavior of American physicians. "It's encouraging that parents and physicians may be getting the message about how to use antibiotics appropriately."

The study said antimicrobial prescribing rates for children increased by 48% in the United States from 1980 through 1992, until health officials sounded alarms that inappropriate use was contributing to antimicrobial resistance.

When antibiotics are used they can kill pathogens but leave behind others that are resistant. Prescribing drugs that are not warranted adds to the problem.

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