Despite our wanting to be good stewards of antibiotics and other prescription medications, prescription medication use seems to be increasing over the past decade in adults. Is the same is true for children and teenagers? Well you can stop wondering, with the release of a new study by Qato et al. (10.1542/peds.2018-1042) that examines the prevalence of prescription medications from 2003-2014 in children and teens using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The authors got their data from medication logs obtained in 2013-14 during direct observation of more than 23,000 children and adolescents and identified various prescription medications during in-home interviews. The authors identified that the use of at least one prescription medication was 19.8% and the use of concurrent medications (meaning two or more) was 7.5% overall and the highest in boys 6 to 12 years. Of the concurrent usages of more than one medication, 8.2% were ones that could result in an adverse drug-drug interaction.
Is raising awareness of the prevalence of prescription medications and potential drug-drug interactions as detailed in this article enough to raise our awareness leading to decreased risk of prescribing drugs that can interact? Not necessarily—at least according to an accompanying commentary by health services researcher Dr. Stephen Downs (10.1542/peds.2018-2023), who points out that it will take innovations in information technology to overcome the barriers such as too many or too few alerts via the electronic health records. Knowing the prevalence of prescription medication with the risk of adverse events is one thing—reducing the risk is easier said than done. You’ll get a good dose of some important information on the topic of prescription medication use in children and adolescents by checking out both this study and commentary.