Purpose: To compare family paediatricians' and general practitioners' habits on drug prescribing to children.
Methods: Prescriptions reimbursed by the Health Service and dispensed by the retail pharmacies of 15 local health units in the Lombardy Region of Italy during 2005 were analysed. Only family paediatricians and general practitioners who were in charge of children aged 6-13 years were included.
Results: During 2005, 239,296 children (43.6% of the selected population) received at least one drug prescription. The prevalence was higher in children treated by general practitioners (44.2 versus 43.4%), in particular in children 13 years old, with a prevalence of 38.7 versus 31.8% in children cared for by general practitioners and family paediatricians respectively. The prevalence of the most prescribed therapeutic classes was similar in the two groups. Some differences were found concerning the antibiotic classes, with family paediatricians prescribing penicillins more frequently and general practitioners prescribing macrolides and cephalosporins more frequently. A total of 542 drugs were prescribed, 78% of which were prescribed by both the family paediatricians and the general practitioners. In all, only four drugs were prescribed by 75% or more physicians. The chance of receiving a drug prescription, adjusted for age, gender and local health unit of residence, was slightly higher in children cared for by general practitioners (OR 1.16; 95%CI 1.14-1.17).
Conclusions: Few differences were found between the prescribing patterns of family paediatricians and those of general practitioners. Differences exist in particular for older children and for some drug classes.