France is one of the most prescribing countries for outpatient pediatric drugs (excluding hospitals, editor’s note) “. This is the conclusion of a study that the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) published on July 12 in the scientific journal The Lancet Regional Health Europe.

One prescription per year for 86% of minors

The study compared the database of reimbursement data by Social Security in 2018-2019 and in 2010-2011 among those under 18, excluding hospitalizations. These were drugs prescribed by a doctor, midwife or dentist. In total, for 2018-2019, more than 230 million drug dispensations were analyzed.

Over this period, “on average, 86 out of 100 children under 18 were exposed to at least one drug prescription in a year“reports a institute press release. Which represents “an increase of 4% compared to 2010-2011“, according to Inserm.

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Analgesics, corticosteroids, vitamin D …

What drugs are they? First of all analgesics, that is to say pain medication: 64% of minors received them.

Next come antibiotics (40%), nasal corticosteroids (33%), vitamin D (30%), nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (24%), antihistamines (25%) and oral corticosteroids (21%).

A risk of adverse effects

The young patients most affected by these prescriptions are children “under six years old“since 97% of them were affected by an annual drug prescription.

And that poses a problem, because “younger children are particularly vulnerable to short and long-term side effects of drugs“notes Inserm.

In addition, the “security profile“, that is to say the possible risks and undesirable effects of many drugs used in pediatrics”is only partially known“, adds the institute.

A cultural difference

And when Inserm compares these figures with those of other countries with advanced economies, France occupies the first place: the prescription of oral corticosteroids is five to 20 times higher in France than for American or Norwegian children, that of antibiotics. five times higher in France than in the Netherlands.

A cultural difference, which is explained in particular by “the positive image associated with drugs in France, both in the population and among prescribers“, according to Inserm researchers.

Better information to prescribe less

But beware: the institute calls for caution for this type of comparison, because “health systems and drug reimbursement policies differ between countries“.

Then these results require “detailed analyzes to better target future training campaigns (in order to) optimize the use of medicines in pediatrics“, advance in the press release Dr. Marion Taine, co-author of the study.

Anyway, “better information for the population and prescribers regarding the use of medicines in children is essential“, she insists.