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Prescribing for children – taste and palatability affect adherence to antibiotics: a review
  1. Dave Baguley1,2,
  2. Emma Lim2,3,
  3. Amanda Bevan4,
  4. Ann Pallet5,
  5. Saul N Faust1,2
  1. 1Academic Unit of Clinical & Experimental Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  2. 2NIHR Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, University of Southampton and Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Southampton, UK
  3. 3Deptartment of Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children NHS Trust, Brighton, UK
  4. 4Pharmacy, University Hospital Southampton NHS Trust, Southampton, UK
  5. 5Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Saul N Faust, Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility, West Wing, Mailpoint 218, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust, Tremona Road, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK; s.faust{at}


The taste of an antibiotic is often not taken into account by practitioners, although there is significant evidence to show palatability correlates strongly with adherence. Many parents will be familiar with the difficulties of convincing young children to take bitter, unfamiliar medicine. Certain drugs, for example flucloxacillin, are so unpalatable that they should not be prescribed as syrups without prior ‘taste testing’ in an individual child, while others, such as oral cephalosporins, are accepted very well although they are more expensive with a broader antimicrobial spectrum than may be strictly necessary. Palatability is important in the broader context of global child health as regards the successful treatment of malaria, HIV and dehydration. The hidden cost of poor adherence resulting treatment failure, complications and the development of drug resistance cannot be over emphasised. Prescribing should involve parents, children and practitioners in an open discussion around the most suitable, palatable formulations for successful treatment outcomes.

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  • Funding This work was carried out by DB while funded by the National Institute of Health Research as an Academic Foundation Doctor at the University of Southampton, and was supported by the NIHR Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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