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What are the trends in prescription medication use among US children and teens?

May 15, 2018

Bottom Line: Estimates of prescription medication use by U.S. children and adolescents declined overall from 1999 to 2014 and patterns of use varied by medication class.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Monitoring prescription medication trends among children and adolescents can help to show changes in access to health care and medicine, illustrate shifts in disease patterns, and highlight the use of appropriate or inappropriate treatments.

Who and When: 38,277 children and adolescents (from birth to age 19) who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2014, a nationally representative survey conducted every two years.

What (Study Measures): Sex, age, race, household income, education, insurance status and current health status (exposures); use of prescription medications, use of medications by therapeutic class, and trends in medication use from 1999-2002 to 2011-2014 (outcomes)

How (Study Design): This was an observational study. Researchers were not intervening for purposes of the study and cannot control all the natural differences that could explain the study findings.

Authors: Craig M. Hales, M.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Maryland, and coauthors

Results: The reported use of any prescription medication by children and adolescents in the past 30 days declined from 24.6 percent in 1999-2002 to 21.9 percent in 2011-2014, amid increases and decreases in the use of some specific medications.

Study Limitations: NHANES did not capture dosages, formulations or frequency of use, and the survey didn't collect data on most over-the-counter medications; under reporting of prescription medication use is possible.

Related material: The editorial, "Medication Prescribing for Children," by Gary L. Freed, M.D., M.P.H., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, is also available on the For The Media website.

For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.

(doi:10.1001/jama.2018.5690)

Editor's Note: Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.
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