An international comparison of pediatric outpatient prescriptions (POPs) is pivotal to investigate inadequate practices at the national scale and guide corrective actions.
To compare annual POP prevalence among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries.
Two independent reviewers systematically searched PubMed, Embase, and institutes of public health or drug agency websites for studies published since 2000 and reporting POP prevalence (expressed as number of patients aged <20 years with ≥1 POP per 1000 pediatric patients per year) in OECD member countries or large geographic areas within them. Risk of bias was assessed for exhaustiveness and representativeness. Prevalence ratios (PRs) were used to compare the highest and lowest POP prevalence among countries overall, by levels of Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification for the overall pediatric population, and by age group (ie, ages <5-6 vs ≥5-6 years), stratifying on prescription-only drug (POD) status.
Among 11 studies performed on 3 regional and 8 national medicoadministrative databases in 11 countries, 35 552 550 pediatric patients were included. The overall risk of bias was low (10 studies were representative [90.9%], and the prevalence denominator included nonusers of health care for 9 studies [81.8%]). Prevalence of 1 or more POP per year ranged from 480 to 857 pediatric patients per 1000 in Sweden and France, respectively (PR, 1.8 [95% CI, 1.8-1.8]). Overall, among 8 studies reporting ATC level 1 drugs, Denmark had the lowest POP prevalence (eg, systemic hormonal preparations: 9 pediatric patients per 1000 per year) and France the highest (eg, systemic hormonal preparation: 216 pediatric patients per 1000 per year). Among 8 studies reporting ATC level 2 drugs for PODs, the PR between France and Denmark was 108.2 (95% CI, 108.2-108.2) for systemic corticosteroids and 2.1 (95% CI, 2.1-2.1) for drugs for obstructive airway disease. The PR for antibiotics was 3.4 (95% CI, 3.4-3.4) between New Zealand and Sweden. For pediatric patients aged 5 to 6 years or older, the PR for sex hormones was 2.1 (95% CI, 2.1-2.1) between Denmark and France. Among 7 studies reporting ATC level 5 drugs, the prevalence of the 10 most prevalent PODs was less than 100 pediatric patients per 1000 per year in Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands and less than 300 pediatric patients per 1000 per year in France and New Zealand.
Conclusions and Relevance
This study found large between-country variations in POPs, which may suggest substantial inappropriate prescriptions. The findings may suggest guidance for educational campaigns and regulatory decisions in some OECD member countries.
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