Objective: In order to evaluate the prescribing pattern in the Italian paediatric population, prescriptions involving 923,353 children under 14 years old and dispensed during 2006 by the retail pharmacies of 22 Italian local health units were analysed.
Materials and methods: A total of 561,237 children (61%) received at least one drug prescription. The prescription prevalence rate was highest in children 3 years of age (78%), decreased with increasing age and was higher in boys than in girls (chi(2)=655; p<<0.001). Each treated child received an average of 3.2 prescriptions and 4.8 boxes.
Results: Antibiotics and anti-asthmatics were the more prescribed therapeutic classes and represented 80% of prescriptions. Amoxicillin+clavulanic acid was the most prescribed drug (24% of the overall population; 17% of all boxes), followed by inhaled beclometasone and amoxicillin. A total of 620 different drugs were prescribed and the ten leading drugs represented 64% of the prescribed boxes. Six of the ten most prescribed drugs were the same in all age groups. Wide differences were found in the prevalence rate between the different local health units; these ranged between 50.1 and 68.4% (p<<0.001). The prescription prevalence increased in the 2000-2002 period (from 62.2 to 68.3%) and slightly decreased afterwards.
Conclusion: Despite some limitations, the systematic monitoring of prescriptions is a valuable tool for evaluating the appropriateness of the care.