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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Prescribing patterns of asthma controller therapy for children in UK primary care: a cross-sectional observational study

Mike Thomas1*, Tarita Murray-Thomas2, Tao Fan3, Tim Williams2 and Stephanie Taylor3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice and Primary Care, University of Aberdeen, Foresterhill Health Centre, Westburn Road, Aberdeen, UK

2 General Practice Research Database, London, UK

3 Outcomes Research, Merck & Co, Inc., Whitehouse Station, NJ, USA

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2010, 10:29  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-10-29

Published: 14 May 2010

Abstract

Background

Asthma management guidelines recommend a stepwise approach to instituting and adjusting anti-inflammatory controller therapy for children with asthma. The objective of this retrospective observational study was to describe prescribing patterns of asthma controller therapies for children in a primary care setting.

Methods

Data from the UK General Practice Research Database were examined for children with recorded asthma or recurrent wheezing who, from September 2006 through February 2007, were ≤ 14 years old at the time of a first asthma controller prescription after ≥ 6 months without a controller prescription. We evaluated demographic characteristics, asthma duration, comorbidities, asthma-related health care resource use, and prescribed daily dose of controller medication. In addition, physicians for 635 randomly selected patients completed a survey retrospectively classifying asthma severity at the prescription date and describing therapy and health care utilization for 6 prior months.

Results

We identified 10,004 children, 5942 (59.4%) of them boys, of mean (SD) age of 8.0 (3.8) years. Asthma controller prescriptions were for inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) monotherapy for 9059 (90.6%) children; ICS plus long-acting β2-agonist (LABA) for 698 (7.0%); leukotriene antagonist monotherapy for 91 (0.9%); ICS plus leukotriene antagonist for 55 (0.6%); and other therapy for 101 (1.0%), including 45 (0.45%) children who were prescribed LABA as monotherapy. High doses of ICS (> 400 μg) were prescribed for 44/2140 (2.1%) children < 5 years old and for 420/7452 (5.6%) children ≥ 5 years. Physicians reported asthma severity as intermittent for 346/635 (55%) patients and as mild, moderate, and severe persistent for 159 (25%), 71 (11%), and 11 (2%), respectively (severity data missing for 48 [8%]). The baseline characteristics and controller therapy prescriptions of the survey cohort were similar to those of the full cohort.

Conclusions

Physician classifications of asthma severity did not always correspond to guideline recommendations, as leukotriene receptor antagonists were rarely used and high-dose ICS or add-on LABA was prescribed even in intermittent and mild disease. In UK primary care, monotherapy with ICS is the most common controller therapy at all levels of asthma severity.