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BMJ Paediatr Open. 2019 Dec 11;3(1):e000546. doi: 10.1136/bmjpo-2019-000546. eCollection 2019.

Antibiotic prescription in the outpatient paediatric population attending emergency departments in Lombardy, Italy: a retrospective database review.

Author information

Laboratory for Mother and Child Health, Department of Public Health, Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri IRCCS, Milano, Italy.
Regional Health Ministry, Lombardy Region, Milan, Italy.



This study aimed to assess the appropriateness of antibiotic prescription in children seen in emergency departments (EDs) and to compare prescription profiles in ED and primary care.


This is a retrospective analysis of healthcare administrative databases.


The study analysed data collected in emergency departments (EDs) and primary care practices (PCPs) in Lombardy, Italy.


Children and adolescents between 1 and 13 years old with an ED access and/or an antibiotic prescription in the first semester of 2012 participated in the study. Only those with an index event (ie, without ED access, hospital admissions or antibiotic prescriptions in the previous 60 days) were included.

Main outcome measures:

The main outcomes are percentage of subjects receiving amoxicillin (first-choice antibiotic) and percentages receiving macrolides/cephalosporins (second-choice therapies).


During the observation period, 133 275 children had one ED access, and 26 087 (19.6%) received an antibiotic prescription. In all, 56.1% of children seen for upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) received an antibiotic, with a prevalence of 67.8% for otitis media and 56.4% for pharyngotonsillitis; 22.3% of children were given amoxicillin after a visit for URTIs, with no differences among infections, and 19.6% received macrolides and cephalosporins. Few differences were found when comparing the index antibiotic prescriptions in ED and PCP settings. A higher prescription of second-choice antibiotics was observed among children cared for by PCPs compared with children attending EDs (31.3% vs 23.4%, χ2 M-H=720, p<0.001). The place of residence was the main determinant of the qualitative profile of prescriptions.


More must be done to improve rational use of antibiotics in the ED and PCP setting, and educational interventions including physicians in both setting are strongly needed.


accident & emergency; epidemiology; health services research; pharmacology

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