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Children are Getting more ADHD Meds, Fewer Antibiotics

Posted on June 22, 2012

Photo by e-Magineart.com used with Creative Commons License.

A new study from the Food and Drug Administration shows that the total number of prescriptions for children decreased by 7% between 2002 and 2010. This counters the trend in adult prescriptions, which rose by 22% during the same time period. Researchers analyzed two large prescription databases to track children’s (ages 0-17) prescription utilization between 2002 and 2010. During that time prescriptions for antibiotics fell 14%. The researchers attributed this drop in prescriptions to the success of public health campaigns to educate the public about antibiotic resistance and prevent the overuse of antibiotics medications.

Although the overall number of prescriptions declined, the rates of utilization increased for some classes of drugs. Prescriptions for ADHD medications, birth control pills, and asthma medications all rose. There was a 46% increase in ADHD prescriptions between 2002 and 2010. The authors propose that the spike in ADHD prescriptions reflects the rise in the number of children who are diagnosed with ADHD. Other physicians have also suggested that the rise in prescriptions may be due to better medications and reduced stigma for the disorder.

The authors urge that the results of the study are important for a number of reasons. Although a wide variety of medications are prescribed to children, little research has been done to assess the risk and benefits of these therapies. This study adds to the current research by providing an overview of the frequency and patterns of children and adolescent prescription utilization. Additionally, the study provides a starting point for future research that can examine how medications are used in children.

In February, as part of the the Schubert Center Conversation series, faculty associate and Professor of Psychiatry Robert Findling presented on the Longitudinal Assessment of Manic Symptoms (LAMS) study.This study aims to delineate the relationship between ESM and bipolarity and develop a more accurate method for diagnosing bipolar spectrum disorders in children. Click here to read the talk’s companion policy brief of Dr. Findling’s work.

Read more about the FDA study at Reuters.

Read Time Magazine’s coverage of the study.

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