Children with sickle cell anemia often don't receive antibiotics to prevent deadly infections

Children with sickle cell disease often do not get the daily dose of antibiotics that they need to protect them from deadly infections, according to a study led by researchers at the University of Washington.

The study of children covered by Medicaid insurance in two states found that pharmacies only provided the children with a mean of 148 days a year of antibiotics, or roughly 41 percent of the year. It has long been recommended that children with sickle cell anemia take antibiotics every day for the first five years of life; so the study shows that children were at risk of developing a serious infection for nearly 60 percent of the year. But that was the mean score one out of 10 children got no antibiotics at all.

"This is a very real problem. Taking antibiotics is very important for these children; taking antibiotics protects them from catching bad infections," says Dr. Colin M. Sox, lead author of the report published the Aug. 27 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Sox is a pediatrician and a Robert Wood Johnson clinical scholar at the University of Washington.

Other authors of the paper include Dr. Dimitri Christakis, associate professor of pediatrics at the UW and co-director of the UW Child Health Institute; Dr. Thomas Koepsell, UW professor of epidemiology; Dr. David L. DiGiuseppe, research scientist at the Child Health Institute, and Dr. William O. Cooper, associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

The authors speculate that there are many reasons that children are not getting the antibiotics they need. The barrier does not seem to be financial; under Medicaid in these states, only a small percentage of the families needed to make any co-pay for prescriptions, and there was no statistical difference between the amount of antibiotics provided to families that needed to make a co-pay and those that did not.

"One possibility is that doctors are not writing the prescriptions. A

Contact: Walter Neary or Pam Sowers
University of Washington

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