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Open Access Research article

Comparative study of paediatric prescription drug utilization between the spanish and immigrant population

Luís A Gimeno-Feliu12*, Javier Armesto-Gómez3, Rosa Macipe-Costa3 and Rosa Magallón-Botaya12

Author Affiliations

1 Aragonese Primary Care Research Group - Research Network on Preventative Activities and Health Promotion (redIAPP), Centro de Salud Arrabal, Gracia Gazulla 16, 50015 Zaragoza, Spain

2 Aragon Health Sciences Institute, Avda Gomez Laguna 25, planta 11, 50006 Zaragoza, Spain

3 Aragonese Health Service, Paseo María Agustín 16, 5001 Zaragoza, Spain

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BMC Health Services Research 2009, 9:225  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-9-225

Published: 8 December 2009



The immigrant population has increased greatly in Spain in recent years to the point where immigrants made up 12% of the infant population in 2008. There is little information available on the profile of this group with regard to prescription drug utilization in universal public health care systems such as that operating in Spain. This work studies the overall and specific differences in prescription drug utilization between the immigrant and Spanish population.


Use was made of the Aragonese Health Service databases for 2006. The studied population comprises 159,908 children aged 0-14 years, 13.6% of whom are foreign nationals. Different utilization variables were calculated for each group. Prescription-drug consumption is measured in Defined Daily Doses (DDD) and DDD/1000 persons/day/(DID).


A total of 833,223 prescriptions were studied. Utilization is lower for immigrant children than in Spanish children for both DID (66.27 v. 113.67) and average annual expense (€21.55 v. €41.14). Immigrant children consume fewer prescription drugs than Spanish children in all of the therapy groups, with the most prescribed (in DID) being: respiratory system, anti-infectives for systemic use, nervous system, sensory organs. Significant differences were observed in relation to the type of drugs and the geographical background of immigrants.


Prescription drug utilization is much greater in Spanish children than in immigrant children, particularly with reference to bronchodilators (montelukast and terbutaline) and attention-disorder hyperactivity drugs such as methylphenidate. There are important differences regarding drug type and depending on immigrants' geographical backgrounds that suggest there are social, cultural and access factors underlying these disparities.