North New Hyde Park, NY—In a trend that researchers called “alarming,” leftover pediatric antibiotics are often used for patients other than the child receiving the prescription.

That’s according to a presentation at the recent American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, Florida. A survey found that parents routinely keep leftover antibiotics and then provide them to others within and outside the family.

Results were reported in an abstract of the study, Diversion of Prescription Antibiotics: Should You Take from Peter to Treat Paul?

This is dangerous not only for those given antibiotics that weren’t prescribed for them, but for entire populations of people who some antibiotics may no longer help when the bacteria they target become resistant to them,” explained senior author Ruth Milanaik, DO, director of the Neonatal Neurodevelopment Follow-Up Program at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

To conduct the study, researchers distributed an anonymous online questionnaire to a national sample of 496 parents though Amazon Mechanical Turk. The study team was surprised to find out that almost half, 48.2%, of the parents reported that they had kept leftover antibiotics instead of properly disposing of them.

Researchers said they also were shocked to discover that 73% of those parents said they subsequently diverted the drugs to the original patient’s siblings, unrelated children, unrelated adults, or to themselves. That sometimes occurred months after the original prescription and did not involve physician consultation, according to the responses.

Those receiving the diverted antibiotics usually were given the prescribed dosage, which typically is estimated based on the age of the pediatric patient. In addition, 16% of the participants said they also had provided diverted adult antibiotics to their children.

The most common diverted antibiotics were in liquid form; 80.4% of parents whose children were prescribed them said they improperly saved and distributed them. After liquids, the following percentage of parents diverted:
• Drops, 73.8%
• Creams, 69.7%
• Tablets, 55.6%

“Although the discovery of antibiotics has revolutionized medicine, it is imperative that clinicians emphasize the importance of use and dispose of these medications properly to make sure they remain an effective tool against infectious diseases,” Milanaik advised.

Study authors concluded, “An alarming percentage of parents reported diversion of antibiotics both within and outside the family. This practice is dangerous not only for the new recipients of the antibiotics but for the population that will likely endure the consequences of drug resistant bacteria. It is imperative that clinicians emphasize the risks of antibiotic diversion and encourage proper disposal of antibiotics.”

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