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

Antibiotic Prescriptions Down; ADHD Drugs Up
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

prescription pad

June 18, 2012 -- Children and teens got fewer prescriptions in 2010 than they did in 2002 -- but what they got changed.

Overall, the number of prescriptions dispensed for children and teens was down 7% during that time, according to the new study, published in Pediatrics.

When the researchers, from the U.S. Public Health Service, looked at individual drugs, however, they found some big increases.

Contraceptive prescriptions rose 93%. Prescriptions for ADHD drugs were up 46%.

Explaining the numbers is not part of the study. "This study was done to assess the wide variety of prescription drugs that are prescribed to U.S. children," says Sandy Walsh, an FDA spokeswoman. "The data we used do not allow us to understand the reasons behind these trends."

For that, WebMD turned to two independent experts.

Prescriptions for Children: A Closer Look

The researchers got the prescription information from two large commercial databases of drugs. All were dispensed from outpatient retail pharmacies.

The report doesn't include information on prescriptions given to children in the hospital. It doesn't include mail-order prescriptions.

The information is on drugs dispensed. There is no way to know if patients actually took them.

Among the prescriptions that declined in 2010 compared to 2002, and by how much:

  • Antibiotics, down 14%
  • Allergy medicines, down 61%
  • Pain medicine, down 14%
  • Depression medicines, down 5%
  • Cough and cold medicines without expectorants, down 42%

The researcher found increases in other drug prescriptions. Besides the 93% increase in contraceptive prescriptions, and the 46% in ADHD drugs, they found that asthma drug prescriptions rose 14%.

Prescriptions for Children, By Age

For infants and children, newborn to 11, the antibiotic amoxicillin (Amoxicot, Amoxil, others) was the top prescribed medication. That was found even though antibiotic prescriptions declined overall. It's used to treat bacterial infections such as those of the ears, nose, and throat.

For children and teens 12 to 17, methylphenidate (Ritalin, Methylin, Metadate, Concerta) was the most common prescription dispensed. It is used to treat ADHD.

The researchers found much off-label use of the drug Prevacid (lansoprazole) in infants under one year. The drug is approved to treat GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Stomach contents leak backward, causing irritation.

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