Objective: To evaluate antibiotic paediatric consumption data in the community setting using data from studies published between 2000 and 2005 and to compare inter- and intra-country antibiotic prescribing patterns.
Methods: A literature search was performed in EMBASE and MEDLINE to identify pharmacoepidemiological studies published between 2000 and 2005.
Results: Large differences between studies were found, with significant heterogeneity in epidemiological indicators. Only 20 studies reporting comparable drug prescription data were considered in the analysis, all of which were from the USA, Canada, North-Central Europe and Italy. Pre-school children were reported as comprising the most exposed age group to antibiotic therapy (prevalence 72%; prescription rate 2.2 prescriptions/person per year). In the overall child and adolescent population (<or=19 years), prevalence varied from 14 to 57% (mean 34%), and the prescription rate from 0.2 to 1.3 prescriptions/person per year. Relevant inter-country qualitative and quantitative differences in antibiotic prescribing were apparent, although these were observed in only a few countries: prevalence was higher in Italy and Canada (prevalence range 42-57%) and lower in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom (prevalence range 14-21%). Penicillins were the most prescribed antibiotics in all cases (40-70% of antibiotic prescriptions), followed by macrolides (16-45%), while cephalosporins accounted for a large proportion of the prescriptions in Italy (30-40%) and Canada, but were practically absent in North European prescriptions.
Conclusion: Comparative drug utilisation studies on antibiotic use in children are needed, as are improvements in regulatory and educational programmes aimed at limiting the number prescriptions given for antibiotics. Both approaches would address public health problems, such as bacterial resistance and safety and elevated costs, related to the use and misuse of these drugs.