Kids taking fewer antibiotics, more ADHD meds
June 18th, 2012
07:45 AM ET

Kids taking fewer antibiotics, more ADHD meds

American children are taking fewer antibiotics now than 10 years ago, but prescriptions to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, have increased, according to a new report by the Food and Drug Administration.

FDA researchers analyzed large prescription drug databases, looking at more than 2,000 drugs, to identify the top 30 medications most prescribed to children up to age 17. 

They found 263.6 million prescriptions were filled for infant through adolescent patients in 2010 - down 7% compared to 2002.

However, a closer look at the numbers reveals that while prescriptions for some drugs went down, others were prescribed more often between 2002 and 2010. The findings were published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

Antibiotics are still the most prescribed medicines for young people, but prescriptions declined 14% over the course of the study. Experts say much of this is due to efforts by the American Academy of Pediatrics to get the word out that these drugs don't work when treating viral infections and most ear aches.  Doctors are also concerned that overuse will add to the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Researchers identified other downward trends in the use of prescription drugs during the study period.  The largest drop in prescriptions for pediatric patients was for allergy medication. However, several popular allergy drugs like Claritin and Zyrtec started becoming available over-the-counter during the same time period, which may explain part of the decline in prescriptions.

The report also finds that prescriptions for certain cough and cold drugs decreased significantly after the FDA issued a public health advisory recommending against the use of OTC cold and cough medications for infants and toddlers up to age 2.

The report also highlights an increase in prescriptions for other drugs from 2002 to 2010, including contraceptives and asthma medications.

One of the biggest jumps was seen in ADHD prescriptions - almost 50%, which experts attribute to two things: increased diagnosis and better medicines. The number of children diagnosed with ADHD has climbed from 4.4 million in 2002 to 5 million in 2010, according to the study.

"I think the large rise in numbers [of prescriptions] reflects not just the increase in the number of children and adolescents with the condition, but also the availability of markedly improved medicines. We now have once a day long-acting meds to treat ADHD," explains Dr. Andrew Adesman, Chief of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the Steven and Alexandra Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, New York. 

Adesman says that prior to 2000, the drug options for the treatment of ADHD were limited.

Experts say identifying drug trends can help steer future research looking at the risks and benefits of therapies for children.

“This type of data is important to identify gaps in research. We have shared this data in the hopes that others will initiate research to better understand how medications are used in children,” says Sandy Walsh, a spokesperson for the FDA.

soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. bob

    Newsflash kids are should be acting hyper and flighty it is called being a kid, parents should try being parents and there would be no need to turn your kids into walking zombies. adhd is the biggest joke in the world and and dr or parents that fill their kids up with drugs to make the behave should be charged with child abuse

    June 18, 2012 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. crystal

    Really? Instead of giving your child or the docter's prescrbing children meds for ADHD they should be educating the parentsn how a proper diet and a good multivitamin will help without th horrible side effects from the ADHD medication!!

    June 18, 2012 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. moonglowsun

    I can't help but feel that WE are causing this in the additives manufacturers & growers put into our food chain and the pollution in our air & water. Healthy children are born of healthy parents & a healthy environment. Today there's a pill for everything with a cascade of unwanted side effects. We have tons of electronical devices we don't know the far reaching effects of. This PUSH to pollute our world with oil in our oceans and gulfs, over our land in pipes that will eventually leak and spill, and the images of bigger..better ...more muscular bodies not only in humans but in animals we use for food is going to impact us in ways we're not prepared to pay for.

    June 18, 2012 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. m@yahoo.com

    i dont get to say this often about comments but, the top 2 comments are absolutely correct. im a father 2 girls. 1 is still an infant but the other is 2 years old and she has unbelievable energy, i wish i still had that energy. but i deal with it, i make myself keep up with my child, thats what parents do. you dont bring your child down to your typical energy level, you push yourself to match them and exceed when neccesary. next they will start giving kids xanax.

    June 18, 2012 at 10:05 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TX Mom

      There is a huge difference between having alot of energy and being ADHD/ADD. I have one of each at home–a girl with inattentive ADD and an energetic, gifted boy who will get into trouble when bored. For our girl, we tried numerous things before turning to medication. She is on a low dosage, and we are able to take her off during summer when she is out of school. The Dr feels that she could very well outgrow the need for meds during her teen hears as we continue to work with her on ways to minimize distractions and focus on tasks. Our boy is bright, energetic, and it would be easy to medicate him to calm him–BUT, he doesn'treally need it. We are trying different methods (including dietary changes) to give him appropriate outlets for his energy and challenge him mentally. The difference is that he CAN focus and sit still when he wants to–the challenge is getting him to want to behave that way (which is my responsibility as a parent). Medications are useful at times, but not always the right option.

      June 18, 2012 at 14:36 | Report abuse |
  5. Kelly

    Another problem is the school districts. My 6 yr old son started at a new school last year and the very first day of school his teacher told me i need to medicate him for ADHD. When i explained to her that he is not diagnosed with that but is ONLY diagnosed with mild autism...She told me "well have you ever thought of medicating him anyway" !!! My response was "no, i have never thought of medicating my son for something he is not diagnosed with, but thanks anyway for the illegal advice". Since then the teacher, principal, and even the social worker and speech therapist have banded together and ragged on my all year about ADHD and medication. I wish they would stick with the jobs that they have been (poorly) trained for and stop trying to dispense illegal medical advice

    June 18, 2012 at 10:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. susan

    Several people above are showing their ignorance. How many books have you read on the subject. I've read about 15. You people don't have a clue what ADD is all about. . Having a child with high energy is not what ADD is about. It's not caused by not enough vitamins or proper diet during pregnancy – It is inherited. The medicines do not turn children into zombies. The medicine allows them to focus and concentrated and thereby, improving their schoolwork. Did you all know that people with ADD/ADHD are covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act? Do you really think the government would cover a disorder that doesn't exist. It's only in recent years that many women have been diagnosed – since they are not always the hyper ones, they were left out and did not receive the treatment they needed which caused undue hardship, educational failure – financial failure – relationship failures.

    June 18, 2012 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TX Mom

      I completely agree. Sometimes, no amount of redirection, diet changes, and coping methods will work. After struggling for years, we finally gave in and allowed my 10yo to be put on meds. Trust me, we did our research, discussed options, and tried everything else we could before going there. The change has been amazing! She is now able to focus in class, is completing her homework more quickly (now that she isn't distracted as easily), and is generally happier and more confident.

      June 18, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse |
    • dt

      Well did most of you know that people whos children have ADD/ADHD get to collect a check every month from the governmetn because their kids are have a so called disability. Now, im only 22 but i can tell you on my college campus the medicine is candy and anyone can go to the campus doctor and say their having problems studying etc and get presicribed. I took it before and i firmly belive anyone prescribed to it has an unfair advantage over kids who do not take it. As well people calim their kids need it dont blame your bad parenting or laziness on a disorder or say your kid needs a medication that is literally legal speed to do well in school.

      June 18, 2012 at 19:43 | Report abuse |
  7. nicole

    i agree with susan. i myself have ADHD and take meds.. helps you focuse and wether your hyper or not doesnth mean anything. cause there is two types. i dont see myself walking around like a zombie! maybe certain people should research it and learn more about ADHD.

    June 18, 2012 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Leucadia Bob


    June 18, 2012 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Leucadia Bob


    June 18, 2012 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Kelly

    Actually, i am fully aware that ADHD falls under disability. My son is a special ed class of 15, ten with ADHD and 5 with autism spectrum disorder. IEPs for all of them But when a child has been fully tested for ADHD many times over and found to not qualify for that diagnosis, nobody should be pushed toward those meds, unless they have been approved to be a "blanket medication" that magically cures many disorders. Come to find out from my childs actual doctor that the ADHD symptoms were caused by a sleep disorder. Doctor recommends liquid melatonin (all natural) to help him stay asleep during the night. Poof! ADHD symptoms all gone. The lesson? Dig deep and confirm the condition before throwing pills around.

    June 18, 2012 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. susan

    Sometimes, it can be very difficult to get the correct diagnosis. I'm 66 and just got diagnosed 3 years ago. It explained a lot of the problems in my life. I've seen quite a few therapists over the years who all diagnosed me with depression- gave me antidepressants that didn't work. My boss diagnosed me – she had a daughter with the disorder. When I looked up the symptoms – "poor work history" jumped right out at me. I've had severe financial problems and just about every symptom you can find on any ADHD website. Sure, I make certain mistakes or have certain problems (like walking into things) – people will say "that happens to me too" . I ask them if them if it happens everyday -several times a day. When I was younger, I always felt stupid – couldn't concentrate too long on school work, had trouble making friends and many more symptoms. Then one day – after my boss diagnosed me and a psychiatrist confirmed the diagnosis, I took my first med. It was like a revelation – things were much clearer – I was able to concentrate. I had a few side effects – like dry mouth and some headaches -I didnt know I wasn't supposed to drink diet coke because of the caffeine – I know longer have the late afternoon exhaustion (I call it the ADD slump) – I'm much more energetic. Recently – when my dose was increased I started getting headaches again – and am now switching to a new medication. I'm still working part-time as an RN. I'm definitely not a zombie

    June 18, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Boo

    Parents should limit their kids' intake of sugar and sugary products. When my nephew was little he was bouncing off the walls and his pediatrician said "No Sugar" except the sugar in fresh fruit. He was correct. His behaviour totally changed.

    June 18, 2012 at 14:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Victor

    It would be interesting if this report broke the increasing dispensing of prescriptions by state. In Massachusetts, may parents as myself are faced with obtaining this diagnosis to obtain needed extra help. MCAS dictates educators teach to the test not to the skills. Children who think outside the box, who learn differently, who need extra reinforcement or do not excell are left behind with out an ADD/ADHD diagnosis. ITs a step to obtain services.

    June 18, 2012 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. yeah right

    The increase in ADHD prescriptions represents the increase in quack doctors working for major pharm corporations

    June 18, 2012 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. gargle

    Most people I know with prescriptions for adderall abuse the drug (chop it up and snort it) and also sell it to other people for around $5 a pill. The label on the pill bottle literally says "Amphetamine salts"...

    June 19, 2012 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Hamsta

    What they won't tell you is that adhd medocine (zoloft) caused the columbine massacre.

    June 19, 2012 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • susan

      Zoloft is an antidepressant, not an ADHD drug – There's no proof that any drug caused the massacre.

      June 19, 2012 at 08:47 | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      zoloft is not an adhd medication. It is an antidepressant.

      July 3, 2012 at 21:50 | Report abuse |
  17. Jean Nystrom

    I have a child with ADHD. I to tried the Ritalin with little to no success. I found the drug made my child lethargic and once it wore off she would either crash or become even more hyper-active. Believe me, I tried it for a period of time to see if it would build up in her system and alleviate not only the behavior but the side effects. It did not. After doing much research I found two programs that are working for my daughter and my family. I use Play Attention (www.playattention.com) and adhdnanny (www.adhdnanny.com). Play Attention is a cool program that builds behavioral shaping and she loves to play it which makes it that much more easy on me. ADHD Nanny (she is young), gives me and my family tools for everyday structure to assist her. Recently divorced I found it difficult to keep her structured because of going back and forth from two homes. Now, each household uses it and it is working for her and the family.

    June 19, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 5, 2012 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Alissa

    So let's put a band-aid on the problem instead of addressing the real issue here. Most children diagnosed with ADHD are normal children who lack parental guidance. My daughter has a real case of ADD. I chose not to put her on medication and manage it myself. It is difficult; it means that I have to work much harder at maintaining a strict schedule and diet. Guess what? That's what a parent is supposed to do! If you can't handle it, don't procreate!

    August 28, 2012 at 02:33 | Report abuse | Reply
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