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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Pediatrics and Child Health - Pharmacology - Public Health and Epidemiology

Temporal Patterns of Medications Dispensed to Children and Adolescents in a National Insured Population
Published: Thursday, July 19, 2012
Author: Karen L. Olson et al.

by Karen L. Olson, Kenneth D. Mandl

This study aimed to comprehensively describe prevalence and temporal dispensing patterns for medications prescribed to children and adolescents in the United States. Participants were 1.6 million children (49% female) under 18 years old enrolled in a nation-wide, employer-provided insurance plan. All medication claims from 1999–2006 were reviewed retrospectively. Drugs were assigned to 16 broad therapeutic categories. Effects of trend over time, seasonality, age and gender on overall and within category prevalence were examined. Results: Mean monthly prevalence for dispensed medications was 23.5% (range 19.4–27.5), with highest rates in winter and lowest in July. The age group with the highest prevalence was one-year-old children. On average each month, 17.1% of all children were dispensed a single drug and 6.4% were dispensed two or more. Over time, prevalence for two or more drugs did not change, but the proportion of children dispensed a single drug decreased (slope -.02%, p?=?.001). Overall, boys had higher monthly rates than girls (average difference 0.9%, p?=?.002). However, differences by gender were greatest during middle childhood, especially for respiratory and central nervous system agents. Contraceptives accounted for a large proportion of dispensed medication to older teenage girls. Rates for the drugs with the highest prevalence in this study were moderately correlated (average Pearson r.66) with those from a previously published national survey. Conclusion: On average, nearly one quarter of a population of insured children in the United States was dispensed medication each month. This rate decreased somewhat over time, primarily because proportionally fewer children were dispensed a single medication. The rate for two or more drugs dispensed simultaneously remained steady.
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