Trends in broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing for children with acute otitis media in the United States, 1998-2004

BMC Pediatr. 2009 Jun 24;9:41. doi: 10.1186/1471-2431-9-41.


Background: Overuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics is associated with antibiotic resistance. Acute otitis media (AOM) is responsible for a large proportion of antibiotics prescribed for US children. Rates of broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing for AOM are unknown.

Methods: Analysis of the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 1998 to 2004 (N = 6,878). Setting is office-based physicians, hospital outpatient departments, and emergency departments. Patients are children aged 12 years and younger prescribed antibiotics for acute otitis media. Main outcome measure is percentage of broad-spectrum antibiotics, defined as amoxicillin/clavulanate, macrolides, cephalosporins and quinolones.

Results: Broad-spectrum prescribing for acute otitis media increased from 34% of visits in 1998 to 45% of visits in 2004 (P < .001 for trend). The trend was primarily attributable to an increase in prescribing of amoxicillin/clavulanate (8% to 15%; P < .001 for trend) and macrolides (9% to 15%; P < .001 for trend). Prescribing remained stable for amoxicillin and cephalosporins while decreasing for narrow-spectrum agents (12% to 3%; P < .001 for trend) over the study period. Independent predictors of broad-spectrum antibiotic prescribing were ear pain, non-white race, public and other insurance (compared to private), hospital outpatient department setting, emergency department setting, and West region (compared to South and Midwest regions), each of which was associated with lower rates of broad-spectrum prescribing. Age and fever were not associated with prescribing choice.

Conclusion: Prescribing of broad-spectrum antibiotics for acute otitis media has steadily increased from 1998 to 2004. Associations with non-clinical factors suggest potential for improvement in prescribing practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Amoxicillin / therapeutic use
  • Amoxicillin-Potassium Clavulanate Combination / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cephalosporins / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Utilization / trends
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Macrolides / therapeutic use
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy*
  • United States


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Cephalosporins
  • Macrolides
  • Amoxicillin-Potassium Clavulanate Combination
  • Amoxicillin