, Volume 63, Issue 7, pp 693-698
Date: 01 May 2007

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

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Abstract

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.