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Antibiotic use in kids down, but still 'inappropriately high'

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September 02, 2011|By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
  • Los Angeles County Public Health director Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding high-fives a toddler. Overall, physicians are prescribing fewer antibiotics for kids -- but still too many, a CDC study finds.
Los Angeles County Public Health director Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding high-fives… (Mark Boster/Los Angeles…)

Efforts to discourage overuse of antibiotics in kids have been successful -- but not successful enough, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday.

Their study, which was published in the health agency's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that antibiotic prescribing rates for kids 14 and younger who had visited physician offices dropped 24% between 1993-94 and 2007-08, from 300 antibiotic courses to 229 antibiotics courses per 1,000 office visits.  Doctors prescribed antibiotics 26% less often for kids with sore throats, and 19% less often for kids with colds.

That's good news for public health organizations around the world who've expressed increasing concern about antibiotic overuse, which helps create drug-resistant "superbugs."

But rates of antibiotic prescription remained mostly unchanged for ear infection, bronchitis and sinusitis, the authors wrote, adding that most cases of these ailments --  as well as sore throats and colds --  do not require antibiotic treatment at all.  In 2007-08, acute respiratory infections, as these are called, accounted for 58% of office visits where an antibiotic was prescribed for kids 14 and younger.  

"The rate remains inappropriately high," the team wrote.

The researchers examined thousands of patient survey forms to perform the analysis.  These showed a noticeable decline in antibiotic prescription rates beginning around 1995, shortly after the CDC began a campaign to encourage "appropriate antimicrobial use," the report said.

But patient expectations and physician behavior continue to fuel antibiotic overuse, it concluded, urging further efforts to decrease inappropriate prescribing in kids 14 or younger.

One way to start, the authors wrote, would be for doctors, health officials and others to participate in Get Smart Week 2011, a campaign that will take place Nov. 14-20.  

Click here to read the CDC report.

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