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Children receive fewer antibiotics { September 2 2003 }

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Children Receive Fewer Antibiotics
Study Shows a Five-Year Drop

Tuesday, September 2, 2003; Page A03

CHICAGO, Sept. 1 -- The number of prescriptions for antibiotics for children in the United States has dropped significantly in recent years, researchers reported today.

The development is good news for those who have been campaigning for reduced antibiotic use to combat the development of disease-resistant forms of common bacteria, the report added.

"Antibiotic prescribing decreased significantly between 1996 and 2000, concurrent with decreased frequency of diagnosis of potential bacterial infections, especially otitis media," or middle ear infections, said the study from Harvard Medical School and other institutions.

"Attention by public health and professional organizations and the news media to antibiotic resistance may have contributed to changes in diagnostic thresholds, resulting in more judicious prescribing."

The study was published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The researchers said they based their conclusion on a look at medical claims involving more than 200,000 children ages 3 months to 18 years old covered by nine medical plans.

The reduction in antibiotic prescriptions for children from 3 months to 3 years old varied among health plans and age groups from 6 percent to as much as 39 percent, the report said.

There were also general declines found in the older age groups.

One major reason for the decrease among the youngest children, it added, was that doctors were diagnosing fewer children with otitis media, the painful middle ear condition that is common in the first few years of life.

Recent studies have shown the condition usually resolves itself without antibiotics.

"The substantial decrease in antibiotic prescribing is rightfully hailed as a victory for public health campaigns, but is also likely a reflection of increased patient and clinician awareness of antibiotic overuse and resistance from other sources," the study said.

In a different article published in the same issue, researchers said parents who demand antibiotics to treat children with ear infections can be dissuaded from such use by doctors.

2003 The Washington Post Company

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