Italian pediatricians have expressed alarm over the numbers of prescription drugs given to children under the age of 14. Research conducted in 24 health departments in 6 regions of the country, covering almost a million children found that two million prescriptions had been issued to 63 per cent of the children in 2003, an average of more that three prescribed medicines each in the course of the year. Of these prescriptions 56 per cent were for antibiotics and 24 per cent for medicines for respiratory problems and asthma. The cost of medicines for children is covered by the national health service and many pediatricians fear that are being used for minor viral ailments when in most cases all that is needed is a medicine to reduce fever.