National guidelines do not recommend antibiotics as an asthma therapy. We sought to examine the frequency of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing during US ambulatory care pediatric asthma visits as well as the patient, provider, and systemic variables associated with such practice.
Data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey were examined to assess office and emergency-department asthma visits made by children (aged <18 years) for frequencies of antibiotic prescription. International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9) codes were used to assess the presence of coexisting conditions warranting antibiotics. Multivariable logistic regression models assessed associations with the prescription of antibiotics.
From 1998 to 2007, an estimated 60.4 million visits occurred for asthma without another ICD-9 code justifying antibiotic prescription. Antibiotics were prescribed during 16% of these visits, most commonly macrolides (48.8%). In multivariate analysis, controlling for patient age, gender, race, insurance type, region, and controller medication use, systemic corticosteroid prescription (odds ratio [OR]: 2.69 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.68–4.30]) and treatment during the winter (OR: 1.92 [95% CI: 1.05–3.52]) were associated with an increased likelihood of antibiotic prescription, whereas treatment in an emergency department was associated with decreased likelihood (OR: 0.48 [95% CI: 0.26–0.89]). A second multivariate analysis of only office-based visits demonstrated that asthma education during the visits was associated with reduced antibiotic prescriptions (OR: 0.46 [95% CI: 0.24–0.86]).
Antibiotics are prescribed during nearly 1 in 6 US pediatric ambulatory care visits for asthma, ∼1 million prescriptions annually, when antibiotic need is undocumented. Additional education and interventions are needed to prevent unnecessary antibiotic prescribing for asthma.