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Kids' Prescription Drug Trends: What's Up, Down

Antibiotic Prescriptions Down; ADHD Drugs Up

Prescriptions for Children: Perspectives

The report has some good news and some concerning news, according to two experts not involved who reviewed the findings for WebMD.

The decline in antibiotic prescriptions is welcome news, says Allen Vaida, PharmD, executive vice president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices.

"For the last decade, the pediatric professional societies and infection control groups have been pushing to say, 'Every time you have the sniffles or a cold, you don't need an antibiotic,'" he tells WebMD.

Antibiotics treat bacterial, not viral, infections.

It looks like that message is getting across, says Donna Halloran, MD, MSPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at St. Louis University.

As for the allergy medicine decline? "I think that's the movement to over-the-counter [medicines]," Vaida says. In the past several years, many allergy medicines previously available only by prescription have been approved for over-the-counter sales.

It might also reflect parents ordering allergy medicines, often needed on a constant basis, through mail-order pharmacies, he says.

Perspectives: Why Increases?

The finding that ADHD prescriptions are on the rise is more difficult to interpret, according to Halloran, who has also researched prescription drug trends in children. She is also a pediatrician at the Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital, St. Louis.

It could be good news, she says, as "there are so many kids who respond so beautifully to the medicines," she says. The children can do better in school once on the medicine, she says.

It could also be disconcerting, she says, "because there is plenty of evidence out there that there are plenty of kids labeled as ADHD and it's not accurate."

Overall, she says, "my hope is that most of that 46% [increase] is due to better treatment."

The decline in cough and cold medicines is welcome, too, Halloran says. In children under 2 years, she says, "it's very clear that the risk outweighs the benefits.''

The FDA recommends against using cough and cold medicines in children younger than 2 years, due to potentially dangerous side effects.

The number of off-label Prevacid prescriptions in babies is concerning, Vaida says.

"If this drug is prescribed for your child under age one, I would question if there really is a need for it," he tells WebMD.

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