Background: Population-based drug utilization databases that comprehensively capture an entire population's drug dispensing are scarce resources for epidemiological studies. This study aimed to examine the prescription-dispensing rates in children in British Columbia (BC) and describe the differences in the dispensing of medications in BC versus children in the United States (US) and Europe.
Methods: The study population was children aged 0-17 years in BC (n = 855,541). Children with at least one prescription dispensed in 2007 were identified using the provincial outpatient prescription dispensing database. All prescriptions were grouped on the basis of the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system. Prevalence of drug dispensing was calculated in each age group, gender, and therapeutic class.
Results: Fifty-five percent of BC children were dispensed at least one prescription in 2007. Antibacterials for systemic use, dermatological corticosteroids, and drugs for obstructive airway diseases were commonly dispensed in each age group. The percentage of children who received psychoanaleptics was two to five times higher than rates reported in European countries, but 30% lower than rates reported in the US.
Conclusions: Half of the BC population <18 years received at least one prescription in 2007. Significant variations in drug dispensing were highlighted between BC, the US, and Europe. Future studies are needed to examine the outcomes of the prescribing in terms of benefit and harm. A variety of factors (e.g., disease prevalence rates, drug prescribing preferences) are likely to contribute to disparate dispensing of specific drug classes and should be principal factors in the investigation.