Inter-country variations in anti-asthmatic drug prescriptions for children. Systematic review of studies published during the 2000-2009 period

Laboratory for Mother and Child Health, Department of Public Health, Mario Negri Pharmacological Research Institute, via G. La Masa 19, 20156 Milan, Italy.
European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology (Impact Factor: 2.97). 09/2010; 66(9):929-36. DOI: 10.1007/s00228-010-0845-y
Source: PubMed


The objective of this study was to analyse inter-and intra-country quantitative and qualitative differences in anti-asthmatic prescriptions to children and adolescents.
A literature search was performed in EMBASE and MEDLINE to identify pharmaco-epidemiological studies published from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2008 in which anti-asthmatic prescription prevalence in out-hospital children was measured. A meta-analytic weighted average and 95% confidence intervals of prescription prevalences were calculated using a random-effect(s) model. Inter- and intra-country quantitative and, where possible, qualitative prescribing patterns were compared and assessed.
Twelve studies were identified (ten from Europe, one from Canada and one from the USA), but epidemiological indicators varied widely, and only eight were suitable for meta-analysis. The data from these studies revealed inter-country quantitative differences in prescription prevalences in the overall population <or=19 years, with Italy having a prescription prevalence of 19.0%, Canada, 18.0%, USA, 14.6%, Denmark, 13.9%, Norway, 9.1% and the Netherlands, 6.2%. The overall prevalence was 13.3%. The analysis of qualitative inter-country differences revealed that, except for Italy, inhalatory short-acting beta-agonists were the most prescribed, followed by inhalatory corticosteroids.
This first overall analysis of anti-asthmatic utilization studies in out-of-hospital children indicates a wide variability in anti-asthmatic prescription prevalence. It also reveals that epidemiological evaluations should be improved by using homogeneous indicators and, in order to validate the use of anti-asthmatic prescription as a proxy of disease, the diagnosis of asthma should accompany the data of prescriptions within the same population.

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    • "There is heterogeneity also in children’s exposure to respiratory system drugs between different countries: prevalence rates range from 6.2% in Norway to 19% in Italy [3]. ß2-mimetics and inhaled steroids are the most frequently prescribed asthma drug classes and in Italy the use of inhaled steroids is threefold and fourfold higher than in UK and in the Netherlands, respectively [4]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background Large differences exist in the prevalence rate of drugs prescribed to children and adolescents between and within countries. The aim of this study was to evaluate child and adolescent drug prescription patterns in Italy in an extra-hospital setting at the regional and Local Health Unit (LHU) levels. Methods Data sources were three regional prescription databases. Data concerning the year 2008 were evaluated. A total of 3.3 million children and adolescents were included. Drug prevalence and prescription rates were evaluated at the regional and LHU levels. The correlation between mean latitude, average annual income, hospitalisation rate, number of paediatricians per 1,000 resident children, and prevalence rate was evaluated by LHU using a linear multiple regression analysis. Results Large differences were found across Italian regions and LHUs. The mean prevalence rate was 56.4% (95% CI 56.3-56.5%; 51.2-65.4% among regions) and, at the LHU level, ranged from 43.1% to 70.0% (higher in the South). A total of 878 drugs were prescribed, 175 of which were shared by all LHUs. Amoxicillin clavulanate was the most used drug in all regions and in 31 of 33 LHUs. Amoxicillin was the drug with the highest variability in use between LHUs (9.1-52.1% of treated children). An inverse correlation was found between prevalence rate and both latitude (p < 0.0001) and average annual income (p = 0.0002). Conclusions The use of drugs in children and adolescents is higher in southern Italy and is inversely related to latitude and average annual income. More efforts should be devoted to informing physicians, patients and policy makers in order to plan effective initiatives to improve the situation.
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