Design and setting: Annual cross-sectional study of all school-entry children (about 4400 each year) in the Australian Capital Territory in 2000–2005, by means of a questionnaire for parents on child health status and medication use; and a cross-sectional study of asthma prescriptions for children aged 5 years obtained from the Medicare Australia database for 2002–2005.
Results: Response rates to kindergarten health screening were in the range 85%–89% for 2000–2005. Parent-reported asthma prevalence ranged from 11% to 15%. Each year, around 35% of children with asthma (age range, 4–6 years) used inhaled corticosteroids. An increase in the use of fluticasone (from 11% to 33% of children with asthma) was offset by decreases in beclomethasone use (from 14% to 3%) and budesonide (from 14% to 4%). Use of cromoglycate and nedocromil fell from 46% to 16%. Nebuliser use decreased (from 45% to 20%), while the use of spacer devices increased (from 70% to 83%). Use of combined salmeterol/fluticasone increased from 8% (in 2002) to 20% (in 2005) of children with parent-reported asthma. These trends were mirrored in Medicare Australia data for 5-year-old children in the ACT.
Conclusions: There was marked volatility in the types of asthma medication used over the 6 years. Reciprocal trends leading to increased use of spacers and decreased use of nebulisers are in accord with national guidelines for better asthma management. The increasing use of products containing a combination of salmeterol and fluticasone requires ongoing monitoring.
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