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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(12):2382-2383

As part of its Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) examined the use of antibiotics to treat otitis media in children. These data appear in “Research Findings 23: Trends in Children’s Antibiotic Use: 1996 to 2001,” which is available online at:

According to the survey, the proportion of children who were given antibiotics to treat ear infection caused by otitis media declined from 14.4 percent in 1996 to 11.5 percent in 2001, and the average number of antibiotic prescriptions per child for any reason declined from 0.9 to 0.5 in the same time frame. One third of all antibiotics purchased for children are for the treatment of otitis media. These data suggest that campaigns initiated in the mid-1990s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and others to reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics have been effective.

The study also showed that the percentage of children who used antibiotics for any reason from 1996 to 2001 declined from 39 to 29 percent. Regardless of a child’s age, race or ethnicity, gender, household income, insurance status, health status, and geographic location, a decline is apparent in the percentage of children using antibiotics and the average number of antibiotic prescriptions per child.

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