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Open Access Research article

Anti-asthma medication prescribing to children in the Lombardy Region of Italy: chronic versus new users

Marina Bianchi1*, Antonio Clavenna1, Marco Sequi,1, Angela Bortolotti2, Ida Fortino2, Luca Merlino2 and Maurizio Bonati1

Author Affiliations

1 Laboratory for Mother and Child Health, Department of Public Health, Mario Negri Pharmacological Research Institute, Milan, Italy

2 Regional Health Ministry, Lombardy Region, Milan, Italy

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BMC Pulmonary Medicine 2011, 11:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2466-11-48

Published: 17 October 2011

Abstract

Background

Although anti-asthma medications are amongst those most frequently under or over prescribed it is generally accepted that prescriptions for such agents can be used as a proxy for disease prevalence. The aims of this study were to estimate prevalence and incidence of childhood asthma in a representative Italian area by analysing three years of anti-asthmatic prescriptions and hospitalizations of subjects with chronic or first time treatment, and to underline appropriateness of therapeutic choices.

Methods

The analysis involved prescriptions given to 6-17 year olds between 2003 and 2005 in Italy's Lombardy Region. The youths were classified as potential asthmatics, based on the different degree of drug utilization: occasional, low or high users, and grouped as 'new onset' or 'chronic' cases based on the duration of therapy dispensed. The analysis of prescriptions and hospitalization rate of these groups provided an estimate of the 2005 asthma prevalence and incidence and allowed an estimation of the level of appropriateness of treatments.

Results

During 2005, the estimated incidence of potential asthmatics was 0.8% and the estimated prevalence was 3.5%. When viewed retrospectively for two years, records showed that 47% of potential asthmatics received prescriptions also during 2004 and 30% also during 2003. During the three years considered, 7.5%, 2.8%, and 1.5% of high, low, and occasional users, respectively, were hospitalized for asthma. The most important inappropriateness found was the prescription of long acting beta adrenergics as first time treatment.

Conclusions

This study allowed a proxy of asthma incidence, prevalence, and severity. The analyses highlighted a low compliance with the guidelines, suggesting that educational interventions are needed to obtain a more rational management of childhood asthma, especially in subjects starting therapy.

Keywords:
asthma; anti-asthmatic drugs; children and adolescents; pharmacoepidemiology; prescription; drug utilization