(HealthDay News) — Reductions in antibiotic dispensing for children may have plateaued, according to a study published online February 2 in Pediatrics.

Louise Elaine Vaz, MD, from Boston Children’s Hospital, and colleagues analyzed pharmacy and outpatient claims from September 2000–August 2010 to calculate antibiotic-dispensing rates per person-year for children aged 3 months to 18 years in health plans located in New England (A), the Mountain West (B), and the Midwest (C) regions of the United States.

The researchers found that in the 3- to <24-month age group, antibiotic use varied significantly at baseline between the health plans (A: 2.27, B: 1.40, C: 2.23 antibiotics per person-year; P<0.001). Over the study period, the downward trend in antibiotic dispensing slowed, stabilized, or reversed. Early in the decade, annual declines for the 3- to <24-month age group were 5.0, 9.3, and 7.2%, respectively, while by the end of the decade, the respective declines were 2.4, 2.1, and 0.5%. In plans A, B, and C, third-generation cephalosporin use for otitis media increased 1.6-, 15-, and 5.5-fold, respectively, in young children. In other age groups, similar tempering of the decline in antibiotic use was seen, as well as increases in broad-spectrum agent use.

“Along with identifying best practices in low-prescribing areas, decreasing broad-spectrum use for particular conditions should be a continuing focus of intervention efforts,” the authors write.

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