Use of anti-asthmatic medications as a proxy for prevalence of asthma in children and adolescents in Norway: a nationwide prescription database analysis

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2007 Jul;63(7):693-8. doi: 10.1007/s00228-007-0301-9. Epub 2007 May 1.


Background and objective: The validity of using self-reported or parental reported asthma symptoms and/or doctor-diagnosed asthma in the estimation of asthma prevalence among children has been questioned. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of dispensed anti-asthmatic medications as a proxy of asthma among children and adolescents aged 0-19 years in Norway.

Methods: Prescription data on subjects aged 0-19 years receiving at least one prescription for an anti-asthmatic during 2004 were retrieved from the nationwide Norwegian Prescription Database.

Results: Overall, 108,719 (9.1% of the Norwegian population aged 0-19 years) individuals received at least one prescription for medication(s) for obstructive airway diseases. The application of criteria that restricted the study population to those receiving inhaled anti-asthmatic medications and those receiving medications reimbursed by the Norwegian health care system for asthma resulted in the identification of 64,458 (5.4%) individuals (4.6% of girls and 6.2% of boys). The prevalence varied by age, with a maximum in both genders at about 2 years of age (7.0% of girls and 10.1% of boys) and a minimum in girls at about 10 years of age (3.3%) and in boys at about 19 years of age (3.5%). Anti-asthmatic inhalants were more frequently prescribed among boys than among girls during the first 15 years of life. Of the children treated, 75% received inhaled glucocorticoids (ICS) in combination with beta2-agonists, of whom 38% received a fixed combination in one inhaler.

Conclusions: In 2004, about 1 in 20 Norwegians aged 0-19 years were in need of medical treatment for asthma for at least 3 months, reflecting ongoing and clinically important asthma. A rather high proportion of children received fixed combinations of ICS and long-acting beta2-agonists, which may indicate moderate to severe asthma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Drug Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents