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GPs ignoring child asthma guidelines claims study

By Lilian Anekwe

A new study has criticised GPs' management of children with asthma, and suggests many children with the condition are receiving inappropriate treatment.

An analysis of prescriptions, the 'vast majority' of which were written by GPs between 2000 and 2006, has shown that some GPs are still ignoring the BTS/SIGN guidelines, published in 2003.

The data from the NHS Information Centre showed prescriptions for bronchodilator syrups decreased by 60% in six years – but still represented 121,000 prescriptions in 2006, ‘despite minimal recommendations for their use'.

The number of steroid inhalers prescribed as combination inhalers with a long-acting beta agonist (LABAs) increased from 258,000 (2.6% of all inhaled steroids prescribed as combination inhalers) in 2000 to 505,000 (20.6%) in 2006.

LABAs were not recommended for first-line use in children in the last guidance.

The researchers said the figures ‘point to an overuse of oral beta agonists and LABA/steroid combinations in children'.

Lead author Dr Simon Cohen, from the Children's Hospital and University of New South Wales in Australia, concluded the paper, published online in the Archives of Diseases in Childhood, by arguing that:

‘Our data suggests that prescribing in the community deviates from the guidance. Furthermore, this study has highlighted the need to… ensure adequate monitoring of prescribing practices.'

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