General practitioner prescribing trends among pediatric patients in the United Kingdom: 1998-2018

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2022 Mar;31(3):302-313. doi: 10.1002/pds.5377. Epub 2021 Nov 9.


Purpose: To describe the prescribing trends of 17 therapeutic drug categories and the specific drug classes of systemic antibiotics, analgesics, and antidepressants in children and adolescents in the United Kingdom between 1998 and 2018.

Methods: A population-based retrospective cohort study including children and adolescents aged 018 years. Overall and annual prescription rates per 10 000 person-years and corresponding 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Rate ratios and 95% CIs were calculated to assess changes in prescription rates during the study period using Poisson regression.

Results: Among 4 075 527 children and adolescents during the study period from 1998 to 2018, the prescribing rates increased by 15% for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder drugs (rate ratio: 1.15, 95% CI: 1.12-1.18), 14% for anxiolytics and hypnotics (rate ratio: 1.14, 95% CI: 1.13-1.16), and 8% for drugs for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) (rate ratio: 1.08, 95% CI: 1.07-1.09). Prescribing rates decreased by 6% for cough preparations (rate ratio: 0.94, 95% CI: 0.92-0.95) and by 3% for analgesics (rate ratio: 0.97, 95% CI: 0.96-0.99). No meaningful changes were observed for systemic antibiotics (rate ratio: 1.02, 95% CI: 0.99-1.04). Among specific drug classes, prescribing rates decreased for broad-spectrum penicillins and cephalosporins, and they increased for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, opioids, and drugs for migraine.

Conclusions: Between 1998 and 2018, the prescribing of centrally acting drugs and drugs for GERD increased among pediatric patients, whereas prescribing of cough preparations and analgesics declined in this population.

Keywords: children; cohort; prescription drugs; trends; utilization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Drug Prescriptions
  • General Practitioners*
  • Humans
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'
  • Primary Health Care
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology

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