Aims: To evaluate the intraregional differences in drug prescribing to children and adolescents.
Methods: Prescriptions reimbursed by the National Health System, involving 1543 203 children and adolescents <18 years old and dispensed during 2005 by the retail pharmacies of 15 local health units (LHU) in the Lombardy Region, were analysed. Logistic regression analysis was performed to evaluate the association between drug prescription and age, gender, prescriber, and setting.
Results: A total of 747 790 youths (48%) received at least one drug prescription. The prescription prevalence rate was highest in children 1-5 years old (65%), decreased with increasing age to 38% in adolescents, and was slightly higher in boys than in girls. Antibiotics and anti-asthmatics were the most prescribed therapeutic classes. Amoxicillin + clavulanic acid was the most prescribed drug (18% of children; 20% of packages). Large differences were found in the drug prescription prevalence rate between the different LHUs. The rate ranged between 38.4 and 54.8%, and was not correlated to hospitalization rate in the paediatric population. Being 1-5 years old [odds ratio (OR) 4.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) 4.43, 4.58] and living in the eastern part of the region (OR 2.06, 95% CI 1.99, 2.13) were the factors associated with the highest risk of drug exposure.
Conclusions: The results resemble the profiles observed in other Italian contexts, in particular concerning the wide use of antibiotics and anti-asthmatics. However, large differences were found between LHUs, highlighting the need for more detailed investigations on therapeutic needs, drug use, and related variables in different geographic contexts.