Objective: Severe asthma exacerbations are often treated with short courses of oral corticosteroids (OCS). This study assessed the incidence of OCS being prescribed in asthmatic children of various age groups and calculated their chances of receiving subsequent OCS prescriptions.
Methods: Longitudinal Dutch community pharmacy data of 2272 children who were regular users of asthma medication was analyzed retrospectively. Incidence rates for first, second and third prescriptions of OCS were calculated, stratified by age and sex. Probabilities of receiving first, second or third OCS prescriptions were assessed with Kaplan-Meier analysis.
Results: Incidence rates for first OCS prescriptions were 4.5 for the 1(st) year of life per 100 person-years (100PY); 3.9 for the 2(nd); 4.6 for the 3(rd); 4.2 for the 4(th), and 4.7 for the 5(th) year of life per 100PY. This was relatively high compared to incidence rates for children between the ages of 6 and 11 (ranging between 2.2 per 100PY (age 9) and 3.7(age 11)). Incidence rates for second and third OCS prescriptions were very high: 78.2(95%CI: 45.0-123.7) and 241.2(95%CI: 81.2-583.4) per 100PY for infants, respectively. The chances of receiving a first OCS prescription was higher in males (P value < 0.01).
Conclusions: In the Netherlands, the incidence of OCS being prescribed to children being treated with asthma medication in early childhood is relatively high for first OCS prescriptions and extremely high for second and third OCS prescriptions compared to other ages. Furthermore, there is a high probability of receiving a further OCS prescription shortly after an OCS prescription.
Keywords: Asthma; OCS; exacerbation; incidence; longitudinal; oral corticosteroid; treatment.