Antibiotic Use for Respiratory Infections Decreasing

Drop in prescription rates a consequence of fewer doctor visits by children with otitis media

TUESDAY, Aug. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Antibiotic use for acute respiratory tract infection (ARTI) is on the decrease, driven down by a drop in the number of office visits by young children with otitis media, according to a study in the Aug. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Carlos G. Grijalva, M.D., of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues assembled 1995 to 2006 prescription data to determine trends in the treatment of ARTI. The researchers analyzed prescription data by antibiotic class and indication, and used annual survey data and census data to calculate incident rates. The study examined visit rates, antibiotic prescription rates for ARTI, (including otitis media), and non-ARTI prescription rates.

Over the study period, the researchers found that there was a 33 percent decrease in otitis media visit rates by children younger than 5 years old, and an accompanying 36 percent decrease in ARTI-associated antibiotic prescriptions. For the 5 years or older age group, ARTI visit rates stayed stable but antibiotic prescription associated with ARTI dropped by 18 percent. Analyzed by class, prescription rates decreased for penicillin, cephalosporin, and sulfonamide/tetracycline, while the prescription rate increased for azithromycin, making it the most commonly prescribed macrolide for ARTI and otitis media.

"Overall antibiotic prescription rates for ARTI decreased, associated with fewer otitis media visits in children younger than 5 years and with fewer prescriptions for ARTI for which antibiotics are rarely indicated. However, prescription rates for broad-spectrum antibiotics increased significantly," the authors write.

Two of the study authors reported receiving lecture fees and seeking research support from several pharmaceutical companies.

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