About 60% of children are prescribed antibiotics at some point in their childhood but 1 out of every 3 antibiotic prescriptions written in the U.S. are deemed medically unnecessary.
Improper administration of these drugs can harm kids, causing diarrhea, nausea and—in extreme cases—death. Overuse of antibiotics can also lead to antimicrobial-resistant infections, such as E. coli and salmonella poisoning, which until recently were not as prevalent among children but currently are one of the largest public health issues among adults.
Dr. Sarah Parker, a pediatric infectious disease physician at Children's Hospital Colorado, said that while antibiotics can be life-saving, clinicians need to use the drugs more appropriately especially as fewer options are available.
As a first step, Children's Hospital Colorado launched an antimicrobial stewardship program that involves Parker and a pharmacist reviewing all antibiotics administered to the hospital's young patients. They look for three things: that the appropriate antimicrobial was prescribed; that the dosage corresponds with the patient's weight and age; and that the antibiotic doesn't dangerously interact with another drug the patient is taking.
Since the initiative launched in 2011, antibiotic use has dropped by 10.9% and the hospital has saved about $1 million per year. That's the result of fewer antibiotics being ordered and patients being less likely to fall ill due to adverse reactions to antibiotics, Parker said.