Despite the increased risk for invasive pneumococcal disease, prophylactic antibiotics are underused in children with sickle cell anemia, according to data from more than 2,000 children in six states.

Less than one-fifth (18%) of young children (aged 3 months to 5 years) with sickle cell anemia (SCA) receive at least 300 days of prophylactic antibiotics to reduce their risk of pneumococcal infections, the analysis found.

“Although the effectiveness of daily penicillin prophylaxis has been known for decades, limited evidence indicates low rates of compliance among children,” wrote Sarah L. Reeves, PhD, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her colleagues. The report was published in Pediatrics.

The researchers reviewed Medicaid claims for 2,821 children with SCA from the period of 2005-2012 for a total of 5,014 person-years. The data were taken from six states: Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and Texas. Antibiotic prophylaxis was defined as four different treatment protocols: oral penicillin; oral penicillin or erythromycin; oral penicillin, erythromycin, or amoxicillin; or any antibiotic that could protect against Streptococcus pneumoniae.

Overall, the children in the study averaged 1.7 sickle cell disease–related inpatient hospitalizations annually, as well as 13.2 sickle cell disease–related outpatient visits and 3.8 emergency department visits per year.

The proportion of children who received 300 days or more of prophylactic antibiotics varied by state, by year, and by type of treatment. “In this multistate analysis, receipt of antibiotic prophylaxis among children with SCA was persistently low, irrespective of year or state,” the researchers noted.

The odds that a child received 300 days or more of prophylactic antibiotics increased with each outpatient visit, including well child visits and sickle cell disease–related visits (odds ratios 1.08 and 1.01, respectively).

A child in the third quartile of sickle cell disease–related outpatient visits (defined as 17 annual visits) was 15% more likely than was a child in the first quartile (defined as six annual visits) to receive at least 300 days of antibiotics.

The study findings were limited by several factors including potential overestimation of how many children received medication, the researchers said. However, the results suggest the need for practical and effective intervention that targets barriers to treatment adherence, they said.

“Provider-focused strategies to increase adherence could capitalize on the numerous annual outpatient encounters with the health care system that children with SCA are already experiencing,” they wrote.

The study was supported by a grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The researchers reported having no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Reeves S et al. Pediatrics. 2018;141(3):e20172182. doi: 10.1542/peds.2017-2182 .


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