Trends in Outpatient Prescription Medicine Use in New Zealand Children 2010–2015: A National Population-Based Study



Research examining trends in the outpatient prescription medicine use of New Zealand children is limited.


Our objective was to provide an overview of prescription medicine use in New Zealand children and assess changing patterns in use from 2010 to 2015.


We conducted a retrospective cohort study including all New Zealand primary care-registered children aged < 18 years using data from the national pharmaceutical claims database. We calculated the prevalence of use within four age groups in each year by anatomical therapeutic class, therapeutic group and drug. Rate ratios were calculated to compare the prevalence of use in 2010 and 2015.


In total, 1,496,026 children with a mean of 2.7 years of potential drug exposure were included. The overall prevalence of drug use was 70% in 2010 and 73% in 2015. In 2015, medicine use was highest in children aged < 2 years (90%) and lowest in children aged 12–17 years (65%). Antibacterials, analgesics, topical corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and antihistamines were the most widely used medicines. The prevalence of use of systemic and topical antibiotics decreased by 2 and 10%, respectively, between 2010 and 2015, but there was increased use of analgesics (10%), NSAIDs (39%), antihistamines (15%) and antinausea and vertigo agents (306%).


Our findings indicate areas for further research focusing on inappropriate prescribing to children and safety issues in children’s medicine use. Monitoring changing patterns of use over time is important for the evaluation of effective therapies in children and any potential harmful consequences of prescribing.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrew M. Tomlin.

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Conflicts of Interest

AM Tomlin, DJ Woods, HS Lloyd and MW Tilyard have no conflicts of interest with regard to this study.


This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. It was conducted as a component of the usual employment of the authors.

Ethical Approval

In New Zealand ethics committee review is not required for secondary use of data for the purpose of quality assurance or outcome analysis where the researchers are bound by a professional or employment obligation to preserve confidentiality and the patient information is not identifiable. Ethical guidelines for observational studies: National Ethics Advisory Committee.

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Tomlin, A.M., Woods, D.J., Lloyd, H.S. et al. Trends in Outpatient Prescription Medicine Use in New Zealand Children 2010–2015: A National Population-Based Study. Pediatr Drugs 20, 465–474 (2018).

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