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Decline in antibiotics prescriptions for kids accompanies rise in ADHD prescriptions

Published: Wednesday, June 20 2012 1:54 p.m. MDT

While adult prescriptions rose 22% between 2002 to 2010, prescriptions written for infants, children and teens fell 7%, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The use of ADHD drugs, among others, however, have increased.

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While adult drug prescriptions rose 22 percent between 2002 to 2010, prescriptions for infants, children and teens fell 7 percent, according to researchers at the Food and Drug Administration.

However, those statistics don't tell the whole story.

"Among the drugs that declined in use: antibiotic prescriptions, which fell by 14%, though antibiotics were still the most frequently dispensed medications for kids," Time reported Monday. Antibiotics accounted for a quarter of all pediatric prescriptions between 2002 and 2010, the study showed.

While efforts to cut back on antibiotic use are being made, parents continue to demand antibiotics for their children who are sick.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is working to "get the word out that these drugs don't work when treating viral infections and most earaches," CNN reported, "doctors are also concerned that overuse will add to the problem of antibiotic resistance."

"Overuse of azithromycin and other broad-spectrum antibiotics 'is contributing to the epidemic of antibiotic-resistant infections,' assistant professor of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah Adam Hersh told USA Today.

Many view the decline of antibiotic availability as a step in the right direction. Kenneth Bromberg, chairman of Pediatrics at The Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York remains optimistic.

"Almost no one is chronically on antibiotics," Bromberg told HealthDay, "it suggests the use of antibiotics for ambulatory type things has gone down, which is very good."

"The more we cut back on unnecessary antibiotic use in humans, the better off we will be in terms of antibiotic resistance," he said.

Efforts are being made to promote awareness. "The authors credit the decrease in antibiotics prescriptions to widespread initiatives by public-health experts to encourage doctors and parents to stop overusing the drugs — especially for viral infections that can’t be cured with antibiotics — and to educate the public on the increase in antibiotic resistance caused by overprescribing," TIME reported.

Prescriptions for children with ADHD, too, stand in need of a reduction, the study shows.

"What the article is suggesting is that the number of children that we are treating for attention deficit disorder has gone up," Dr. Scott Benson, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and a spokesperson for the American Psychiatric Association, told Reuters Health.

"For the most part I think the overall increase reflects a reduction in the stigma," he told Reuters Health. "It used to be, ‘You're a bad parent if you can't get your child to behave, and you're a doubly bad parent if you put them on medicine.'"

Brian Fung at The Atlantic noted, "of course, just because we're prescribing more Ritalin doesn't mean ADHD has necessarily worsened in America. As pressure on school kids has grown more intense, so has the phenomenon of using attention-deficit drugs for off-label purposes.

"Every year, doctors issue 21 million prescriptions of Ritalin, Adderall and other focus medications that are meant to treat ADHD, but that in many cases find their way into the hands of students simply seeking an edge in the classroom."

Other things may be at play as well.

"I think the large rise in numbers [of prescriptions] reflects not just the increase in the number of children and adolescents with the condition, but also the availability of markedly improved medicines. We now have once a day long-acting meds to treat ADHD," Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Children's Medical Center of New York, told CNN.

Researchers are hopeful that the study will incite action among professionals in the medical sphere. "The report of commonly prescribed medications for kids will help guide doctors and scientists to focus their research efforts, according to its authors," reported CBSNews.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News.

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