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Antibiotic Diversion Still Common Among Families

November 06, 2018

As concerns over antibiotic-resistant bacteria persist in the United States, new research presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition indicates that antibiotic diversion is still common among parents of children who were prescribed antibiotics.

These findings emerged from an anonymous online questionnaire distributed to 550 parents via Amazon Mechanical Turk. The questionnaire prompted parents regarding any reuse of antibiotics initially prescribed to their children, the formulation of antibiotics, the people who received their children’s antibiotics, and how they determined the appropriate dosage to administer.

Parents were also asked whether they had administered any adult-prescribed medications for their children.

Of the 496 parents who met inclusion criteria, 454 had leftover antibiotics of any formulation. A total of 219 parents reported saving their leftover antibiotics instead of disposing of them, and 159 reported subsequently diverting those antibiotics.

"This is dangerous not only for those given antibiotics that weren't prescribed for them, but for entire populations of people who some antibiotics may no longer help when the bacteria they target become resistant to them," said the abstract’s senior author Ruth Milaniak, DO, FAAP, director of the Neonatal Neurodevelopment Follow-Up Program at the Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in a press release.

Antibiotic diversion was found to be most common for liquid medications (80.4% of parents whose children used liquid antibiotics) and drops (73.8%) compared with creams and tablets (69.7% and 55.6%, respectively).

Survey findings indicated that antibiotics were most commonly diverted from the child who was initially prescribed the antibiotic medication to their siblings and parents.

"[W]e found one of the common reason parents gave for diverting antibiotics was that they wanted to avoid the costs involved with a second trip to the doctor," said abstract co-author Tamara Kahan.

The dosage of antibiotic was most often administered in the prescribed dosage, despite that the recipient of the antibiotic had changed, or was estimated based on the child’s age.

Approximately 16% of participants reported having given their child medications prescribed to adults.

—Christina Vogt

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