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Unnecessary Antibiotics Linked to Nearly 70,000 Yearly ED Visits


August 24, 2018

Adverse drug events (ADEs) associated with antibiotic use lead to roughly 70,000 children visiting the emergency department (ED) each year in the US, according to new data from the CDC.

“Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications for children; however, at least one-third of pediatric antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary,” the CDC wrote in their study.

In order to further investigate short-term antibiotic-related harms, the researchers used adverse event data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System—Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance project, as well as retail pharmacy dispensing data from QuintilesIMS to estimate frequencies and rates of ED visits for antibiotic ADEs in children.

Using data from 6542 surveillance cases, they estimated that 69,464 ED visits per year for antibiotic ADEs among children aged 19 years and younger between 2011 and 2015. Among these, 40.7% involved children aged 2 years or younger, and 86.1% involved allergic reactions.

Amoxicillin was the most commonly implicated antibiotic among children aged 9 years and younger and had the highest rate of ED visits among children aged 2 years and younger (29.9 ED visits per 10,000 dispensed prescriptions). Sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim had the highest rate among children aged 10 to 19 years (24.2 ED visits per 10,000 dispensed prescriptions).

“Minimizing antibiotic overprescribing is important for reducing acute and clinically significant harms to individual patients and for reducing the societal risk of antibiotic resistance. Quantifying the risks of antibiotic ADEs can provide additional information to help clinicians and parents/caregivers weigh the risks and benefits of antibiotic treatment,” the researchers concluded.

—Michael Potts


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