Antibiotics Still Being Overprescribed for Children

The November 9, 2005 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, (JAMA) published a study that showed that antibiotics are still being overprescribed for children who do not need them, and in many cases when they do the wrong ones are being given.

The study showed that 53% of children with sore throats are being prescribed antibiotics. In reality the study notes that only between 15 and 33% of children with sore throats actually have strep throat. They note that a true strep throat is one caused by infection from streptococci bacteria.

Salynn Boyles, of WebMD reporting on the study in a November 8, 2005 article noted that, “one in four prescriptions involved antibiotics other than those recommended, potentially increasing the risk for treatment failure and future drug resistance.”

The study did note that there was a slight drop in the usage of antibiotics for children between 1995 and 2003, but the authors of the study attributed this drop to a decrease in the antibiotic agents recommended for usage in strep throat. Chief study author, Jeffrey A. Linder, MD, MPH, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, noted, “The overall trend is down, but clearly there are still too many antibiotics being prescribed.”

The researchers found that a test used to confirm the presence of a real strep throat was used only about half the time. Even when this test was used, the study showed that the test results had little effect on whether or not antibiotics were prescribed anyway. Dr. Linder warned, “All kids should be given a strep test before they are treated with antibiotics.”

According to Linder the bottom line is that most kids with sore throats probably shouldn’t be taking antibiotics, and a strep test should always be given before antibiotics are prescribed.