High association between burden of asthma and inadequate disease control make asthma management a major public health issue. We studied asthma management practices of general practitioners (GPs) in France to describe drug therapy and more specifically, to identify correlates of antibiotic prescriptions, a marker of inappropriate asthma management. Patients with persistent asthma aged 17-50 years were evaluated in a 12-month retrospective study using a computerized GPs database (Thales) and a patient survey, in which patients reported hospital contacts, use of oral corticosteroids and recent asthma symptoms. Therapy was described and the correlates of antibiotic prescriptions in the previous year were identified using multivariate logistic regression. During the study period, 16.4% of 1038 patients received one or more prescriptions of theophylline, 31.3% long-acting beta-agonists and 61.6% inhaled corticosteroids. Rates of prescription of antibiotics, expectorants, antihistamines, antitussives and nasal corticosteroids were 57.6, 42.0, 33.0, 19.9, and 14.4%, respectively. In parallel, 15% of patients reported at least one hospital contact for asthma and 43.1% used oral corticosteroids. Antibiotic prescriptions were more likely co-prescribed in patients using expectorants [odds ratio (OR) = 13.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 8.5-19.8] and antitussives (OR = 6.5, 95% CI = 3.7-11.6). Moreover, patients using courses of oral corticosteroids, and often visiting their GP (more than four times) during the study period were more likely to receive antibiotics. The results were unchanged when analyses were restricted to non-smokers and younger patients (< or = 40 years). Asthma management was sub-optimal among asthma patients treated by general practitioners in France. Antibiotics, expectorants, antihistamines, antitussives and nasal corticosteroids were commonly prescribed while asthma controllers were under-used.