Variability in Antibiotic Prescribing for Community-Acquired Pneumonia

Pediatrics. 2017 Apr;139(4):e20162331. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-2331. Epub 2017 Mar 7.


Background and objectives: Published guidelines recommend amoxicillin for most children with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), yet macrolides and broad-spectrum antibiotics are more commonly prescribed. We aimed to determine the patient and clinician characteristics associated with the prescription of amoxicillin versus macrolide or broad-spectrum antibiotics for CAP.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study in an outpatient pediatric primary care network from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2013. Patients prescribed amoxicillin, macrolides, or a broad-spectrum antibiotic (amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cephalosporin, or fluoroquinolone) for CAP were included. Multivariable logistic regression models were implemented to identify predictors of antibiotic choice for CAP based on patient- and clinician-level characteristics, controlling for practice.

Results: Of 10 414 children, 4239 (40.7%) received amoxicillin, 4430 (42.5%) received macrolides and 1745 (16.8%) received broad-spectrum antibiotics. The factors associated with an increased odds of receipt of macrolides compared with amoxicillin included patient age ≥5 years (adjusted odds ratio [aOR]: 6.18; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 5.53-6.91), previous antibiotic receipt (aOR: 1.79; 95% CI: 1.56-2.04), and private insurance (aOR: 1.47; 95% CI: 1.28-1.70). The predicted probability of a child being prescribed a macrolide ranged significantly between 0.22 and 0.83 across clinics. The nonclinical characteristics associated with an increased odds of receipt of broad-spectrum antibiotics compared with amoxicillin included suburban practice (aOR: 7.50; 95% CI: 4.16-13.55) and private insurance (aOR: 1.42; 95% CI: 1.18-1.71).

Conclusions: Antibiotic choice for CAP varied widely across practices. Factors unlikely related to the microbiologic etiology of CAP were significant drivers of antibiotic choice. Understanding drivers of off-guideline prescribing can inform targeted antimicrobial stewardship initiatives.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Ambulatory Care
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Community-Acquired Infections / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Pneumonia / drug therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents