Aims: To explore the trend in prescribing of drugs classified within the R03 therapeutic pharmacological subgroup (drugs for obstructive airway diseases) of the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification.
Methods: Comparison of GP-collected data on physician-patient contacts and drug prescriptions for asthma and COPD in 2006 and 2008.
Results: Compared to 2006, in 2008 patients with COPD were prescribed more long-acting bronchodilators; use of tiotropium increased, whilst use of long-acting β2-agonists (LABAs) and short-acting antimuscarinic agents decreased. However, 55.9% of patients in 2006, and 47.8% in 2008, received an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS), mainly as a LABA/ICS fixed combination inhaler. Compared to 2006, in 2008 there were increased prescriptions of LABA/ICS fixed combination inhalers for asthma, but only 54.5% of all prescriptions included an ICS. This could explain the large use of short-acting β2-agonists, a marker of poor asthma control. Remarkably, LABA/ICS fixed combination inhalers were prescribed more frequently in COPD than in asthma.
Conclusions: Our data indicate that adherence to guidelines is still low. Patients with asthma and COPD are undertreated by Italian GPs, with a trend to a change in COPD prescribing likely driven by new scientific information.