Objective: To evaluate anti-asthmatic drug prescriptions in a large Italian paediatric population.
Methods: Prescriptions involving 417,559 children younger than 14 years old dispensed during 2000 by the retail pharmacies of 17 Italian local health units participating in the ARNO project were analysed.
Results: In the study, 92,890 children (22.2%) received at least one anti-asthmatic drug prescription. The prevalence of prescriptions was higher in children less than 1 year old, significantly decreased with increasing age, and was higher in boys than in girls. Of children treated with anti-asthmatic drugs, 71.5% received prescriptions of less than three boxes. Beclomethasone, salbutamol, flunisolide and fluticasone were the most prescribed drugs. Beclomethasone and flunisolide were prescribed mostly as nebulised suspension.
Conclusions: The data suggest that anti-asthmatic drugs are often prescribed for diseases different from asthma and that many children are exposed to treatments for which there is no evidence of efficacy.