Association of Inappropriate Outpatient Pediatric Antibiotic Prescriptions with Adverse Drug Events and Health Care Expenditures

Anne M. Butler, Derek S. Brown, Michael J. Durkin, John M. Sahrmann, Katelin B. Nickel, Caroline A. O'Neil, Margaret A. Olsen, David Y. Hyun, Rachel M. Zetts, Jason G. Newland

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32 Scopus citations


Importance: Nonguideline antibiotic prescribing for the treatment of pediatric infections is common, but the consequences of inappropriate antibiotics are not well described. Objective: To evaluate the comparative safety and health care expenditures of inappropriate vs appropriate oral antibiotic prescriptions for common outpatient pediatric infections. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study included children aged 6 months to 17 years diagnosed with a bacterial infection (suppurative otitis media [OM], pharyngitis, sinusitis) or viral infection (influenza, viral upper respiratory infection [URI], bronchiolitis, bronchitis, nonsuppurative OM) as an outpatient from April 1, 2016, to September 30, 2018, in the IBM MarketScan Commercial Database. Data were analyzed from August to November 2021. Exposures: Inappropriate (ie, non-guideline-recommended) vs appropriate (ie, guideline-recommended) oral antibiotic agents dispensed from an outpatient pharmacy on the date of infection. Main Outcomes and Measures: Propensity score-weighted Cox proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazards ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for the association between inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions and adverse drug events. Two-part models were used to calculate 30-day all-cause attributable health care expenditures by infection type. National-level annual attributable expenditures were calculated by scaling attributable expenditures in the study cohort to the national employer-sponsored insurance population. Results: The cohort included 2804245 eligible children (52% male; median [IQR] age, 8 [4-12] years). Overall, 31% to 36% received inappropriate antibiotics for bacterial infections and 4% to 70% for viral infections. Inappropriate antibiotics were associated with increased risk of several adverse drug events, including Clostridioides difficile infection and severe allergic reaction among children treated with a nonrecommended antibiotic agent for a bacterial infection (among patients with suppurative OM, C. difficile infection: HR, 6.23; 95% CI, 2.24-17.32; allergic reaction: HR, 4.14; 95% CI, 2.48-6.92). Thirty-day attributable health care expenditures were generally higher among children who received inappropriate antibiotics, ranging from $21 to $56 for bacterial infections and from -$96 to $97 for viral infections. National annual attributable expenditure estimates were highest for suppurative OM ($25.3 million), pharyngitis ($21.3 million), and viral URI ($19.1 million). Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study of children with common infections treated in an outpatient setting, inappropriate antibiotic prescriptions were common and associated with increased risks of adverse drug events and higher attributable health care expenditures. These findings highlight the individual- and national-level consequences of inappropriate antibiotic prescribing and further support implementation of outpatient antibiotic stewardship programs..

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2214153
JournalJAMA Network Open
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 26 2022


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