Pharmacoepidemiology and Prescription

European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 63, Issue 7, pp 693-698

First online:

Use of anti-asthmatic medications as a proxy for prevalence of asthma in children and adolescents in Norway:a nationwide prescription database analysis

  • Kari FuruAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacoepidemiology, Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health Email author 
  • , Svetlana SkurtveitAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmacoepidemiology, Division of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health
  • , Arnulf LanghammerAffiliated withHUNT Research Centre, Department of Public Health and General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology
  • , Per NafstadAffiliated withInstitute of General Practice and Community Medicine, Medical Faculty, University of OsloDivision of Epidemiology, Norwegian Institute of Public Health

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Background and objective

The validity of using self-reported or parental reported asthma symptoms and/or doctor-diagnosed asthma in the estimation of asthma prevalence among children has been questioned. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of dispensed anti-asthmatic medications as a proxy of asthma among children and adolescents aged 0–19 years in Norway.


Prescription data on subjects aged 0–19 years receiving at least one prescription for an anti-asthmatic during 2004 were retrieved from the nationwide Norwegian Prescription Database.


Overall, 108,719 (9.1% of the Norwegian population aged 0–19 years) individuals received at least one prescription for medication(s) for obstructive airway diseases. The application of criteria that restricted the study population to those receiving inhaled anti-asthmatic medications and those receiving medications reimbursed by the Norwegian health care system for asthma resulted in the identification of 64,458 (5.4%) individuals (4.6% of girls and 6.2% of boys). The prevalence varied by age, with a maximum in both genders at about 2 years of age (7.0% of girls and 10.1% of boys) and a minimum in girls at about 10 years of age (3.3%) and in boys at about 19 years of age (3.5%). Anti-asthmatic inhalants were more frequently prescribed among boys than among girls during the first 15 years of life. Of the children treated, 75% received inhaled glucocorticoids (ICS) in combination with β2-agonists, of whom 38% received a fixed combination in one inhaler.


In 2004, about 1 in 20 Norwegians aged 0–19 years were in need of medical treatment for asthma for at least 3 months, reflecting ongoing and clinically important asthma. A rather high proportion of children received fixed combinations of ICS and long-acting β2-agonists, which may indicate moderate to severe asthma.


Adolescents Asthma Children Prescription database Prevalence