Dispensing of prescription drugs to children decline during pandemic
The dispensing of prescription drugs to children declined by one-quarter during the last 9 months of 2020 compared with the same time period in 2019, researchers reported in Pediatrics.
Kao-Ping Chua, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, and colleagues used the IQVIA National Prescription Audit — which tracks monthly disbursements for 92% of U.S. retail pharmacies — to assess changes in the prescription drugs distributed to children up to age 19 years from 2018 to 2020.
The authors combined 13 systemic antibiotic classes — for example, penicillins and cephalosporins — into a single class, which left 265 classes remaining. Of these, 232 accounted for at least one dispensed prescription to a child between 2018 and 2020. The authors excluded vaccine prescriptions, leaving 231.
The 231 drug classes were assigned to one of three categories: acute infection related, chronic disease related, and other, which included prescriptions for noninfectious chronic diseases, contraceptives and pain medications.
The total number of prescriptions dispensed to children was 296,993,253 in 2018, 299,188,743 in 2019 and 240,238,895 in 2020, Chua and colleagues reported. From April to December 2020, 160,630,406 prescriptions were dispensed compared with 220,284,613 in 2019 — a 27.1% decrease. This included a 24.7% decrease from April to August 2020 compared with 2019, and a 29.8% decrease from September to December.
Compared with 2019, dispensing totals from April to December 2020 decreased by 48.7% among those aged 0 to 2 years, 40.6% among those aged 3 to 9 years, and 16.8% among those aged 10 to 19 years.
“These declines reveal that substantial reductions in prescribing of these [classes of] drugs are possible,” the authors wrote. “Whether these reductions are temporary or sustained will be important to monitor going forward.”