Antibiotic Progress? Mixed Results

Antibiotic Progress? Mixed Results

Overuse of antibiotics leads to more resistant bacteria and to sicker kids. A survey of physicians published in the June 19, 2002 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association reports a significant drop in antibiotic prescribing rates for children.

In 1989-1990, there were 838 antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 children each year. By 1999-2000, the number had dropped to 503. In 1989-1990, antibiotics were prescribed at 33 percent of all office visits (for any cause). By 1999-2000, this had dropped to 23 percent of office visits.

This is welcome news indeed!

Nevertheless, throughout the period of the study, bacterial resistance continued to increase – and it is no wonder. Millions of courses of unnecessary antibiotics are still being prescribed each year. This same survey showed that at the end of the study, 2 million prescriptions were still given each year to children under age 15 when the diagnosis was a viral upper respiratory infection.

At the end of the study, a child who visited the doctor with a cold got antibiotics 22 percent of the time; with a sore throat (usually viral), 69 percent; and with bronchitis (usually viral) 77 percent of the time. The CDC says, “Bronchitis or a nonspecific cough illness in children rarely warrants antibiotics.”

Clearly, we still have a long way to go. In the meantime, print this page and bring it with you to the doctor.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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