Impetigo is the most common childhood infectious skin problem. It's a superficial bacterial infection that begins with small blisters and pustules, becomes crusted over, and then heals without scarring.
The usual treatment is oral erythromycin. Mupirocin, an ointment, is a popular alternative because it's as effective as erythromycin with fewer side effects. However, it costs more than erythromycin.
The real impact of a child's illness is much greater than Just the cost of the medicine. Doctors in Baltimore did a cost-effectiveness study comparing the overall costs of treating impetigo with these two drugs. They included the costs of visits to the doctor, lost school time, lost parental work time, and the cost of the medicine. In addition, they evaluated the incidence of side effects for both drugs.
The children treated with the mupirocin had fewer side effects. The parents of the children using the ointment lost less work time and the children missed less school. Overall, both drugs were found to be equally effective and the overall satisfaction level of both groups was about the same. The increased cost of the mupirocin was offset by the fewer side effects and less missed school and work days.