Objective: Antibiotics are the most commonly prescribed drugs used by children. Excessive and irrational use of antibiotic drugs is a world-wide concern. We performed a drug utilization study describing the patterns of antibiotic use in children aged 0-19 years between 1999 and 2005 in the Netherlands.
Methods: We used IADB.nl, a database with pharmacy drug dispensing data covering a population of 500,000 people and investigated all prescriptions of oral antibiotic drugs (ATC J01) for children <or=19 years between 1999 and 2005.
Results: The total number of antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 children per year ranged from 282 in 2004 to 307 in 2001 and did not change between years during the study period in a clinically relevant way. The prevalence of receiving at least one prescription varied between 17.8% in 2004 and 19.3% in 2001. Amoxicillin was the most frequently prescribed drug (46.4% of all antibiotic prescriptions in 1999 and 43.2% in 2005). Between 1999 and 2005 there was a shift from the small-spectrum phenethicillin, a penicillin preparation [ratio 2005/1999 0.76; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.72-0.81], to amoxicillin/clavulanic acid (ratio 2005/1999 1.70; 95% CI 1.61-1.79) and from the old macrolide erythromycin (ratio 2005/1999 0.35; 95% CI 0.32-0.39) to the new macrolide antibiotic azithromycin (ratio 2005/1999 1.78; 95% CI 1.65-1.92).
Conclusion: The use of antibiotic drugs in treating children in the Netherlands is comparable to that in other northern European countries. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were prescribed more frequently than recommended by the guidelines and increased during our study period. Initiatives to improve guideline-directed antibiotic prescribing are strongly recommended.