Asthma prescription patterns for children: can GPs do better?
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Abstract Background: Assessing prescription patterns of asthma medication for children is helpful to optimize prescribing by general practitioners (GPs). The aim was to explore prescription patterns in children with physician-diagnosed asthma and its determinants in general practice. Methods: We used the Second Dutch National Survey of General Practice (DNSGP-2) with children aged 0-17 years registered in 87 general practices. All children with at least one asthma prescription were included (n = 2993). Prescription rates and prescription of continuous (≥3 prescriptions/year) versus intermittent asthma medication were calculated. Data, including several GP characteristics, were analysed using multivariate logistic regression accounting for clustering within practices. Results: During one year, 16% of the children with physician-diagnosed asthma (n = 3562) received no asthma medication. Of the 2993 children with asthma receiving asthma medication (on average 2.9 prescriptions/year), 61% received one or two prescriptions, 39% received three or more. Continuous medication with a bronchodilator and/or a corticosteroid was prescribed in 22% of these children. One out of 5 children receiving continuous medication was prescribed a bronchodilator only. In 7.5% of the prescriptions, asthma medications other than bronchodilators or corticosteroids were prescribed. Prescribing asthma medication varied widely between practices, but none of the children and GP determinants had an independent effect on prescribing continuous versus intermittent medication. Conclusion: In general practice, the annual number of asthma prescriptions per child with asthma is relatively low. One in 20 children is prescribed bronchodilators only continuously, indicating room for improvement. Child and GP characteristics cannot be used for targeting educational efforts.