Contraceptives most prescribed meds for kids

June 28, 2012

Researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration reported that for US children aged 17 years and younger, outpatient prescriptions for birth control medications soared 93% and for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder 46% since 2002, although overall prescription drug use declined. What is behind these trends? More >>


Researchers from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that for US children aged 17 years and younger, outpatient prescriptions for birth control medications soared 93% and for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder 46% since 2002, although overall prescription drug use declined.

To determine trends in outpatient drug use during the years 2002 to 2010, researchers reviewed data from 2 large commercial prescription and patient databases that cover two-thirds of all outpatient retail pharmacies and include about half of all retail prescriptions dispensed in the United States.

In 2010, a total of 263.6 million prescriptions were dispensed to the US pediatric population (aged 0-17 years), a decrease of 7% from 2002. Over the same period, prescription drug use by US adults increased by 22%.

Of the top 12 therapeutic areas, systemic antibiotics were the most frequently dispensed, but their use declined by 14% in 2010 compared with 2002, in keeping with recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups concerning antibiotic resistance.

Decreases were also seen in use of prescription drugs for allergies (–61%), cough/cold without expectorant (–42%), pain (–14%), and depression (–5%). In contrast, use of 6 other types of drugs increased, most notably contraceptives and drugs for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, followed by asthma medications, oral and dermal corticosteroids, and seizure disorder medications. The increase in contraceptive use could reflect use of the medications for other indications, including acne, researchers suggest.

In 2010, amoxicillin was the most frequently dispensed prescription for infants and children aged 0 months to 11 years. Methylphenidate was the top prescription for adolescents. Off-label use of prescription drugs was noted, especially for lansoprazole; more than 350,000 prescriptions of the proton pump inhibitor were dispensed for infants younger than 1 year.

The FDA researchers say that knowledge of these trends in prescription drug use could help identify areas for further research and aid in evaluation of risks and benefits of therapies for children.

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