Objective: The objective of this study was to analyse inter-and intra-country quantitative and qualitative differences in anti-asthmatic prescriptions to children and adolescents.
Methods: A literature search was performed in EMBASE and MEDLINE to identify pharmaco-epidemiological studies published from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2008 in which anti-asthmatic prescription prevalence in out-hospital children was measured. A meta-analytic weighted average and 95% confidence intervals of prescription prevalences were calculated using a random-effect(s) model. Inter- and intra-country quantitative and, where possible, qualitative prescribing patterns were compared and assessed.
Results: Twelve studies were identified (ten from Europe, one from Canada and one from the USA), but epidemiological indicators varied widely, and only eight were suitable for meta-analysis. The data from these studies revealed inter-country quantitative differences in prescription prevalences in the overall population <or=19 years, with Italy having a prescription prevalence of 19.0%, Canada, 18.0%, USA, 14.6%, Denmark, 13.9%, Norway, 9.1% and the Netherlands, 6.2%. The overall prevalence was 13.3%. The analysis of qualitative inter-country differences revealed that, except for Italy, inhalatory short-acting beta-agonists were the most prescribed, followed by inhalatory corticosteroids.
Conclusions: This first overall analysis of anti-asthmatic utilization studies in out-of-hospital children indicates a wide variability in anti-asthmatic prescription prevalence. It also reveals that epidemiological evaluations should be improved by using homogeneous indicators and, in order to validate the use of anti-asthmatic prescription as a proxy of disease, the diagnosis of asthma should accompany the data of prescriptions within the same population.