Drug use in children: cohort study in three European countries

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To provide an overview of drug use in children in three European countries.


Retrospective cohort study, 2000–5.


Primary care research databases in the Netherlands (IPCI), United Kingdom (IMS-DA), and Italy (Pedianet).


675 868 children aged up to 14 (Italy) or 18 (UK and Netherlands).

Main outcome measure

Prevalence of use per year calculated by drug class (anatomical and therapeutic). Prevalence of “recurrent/chronic” use (three or more prescriptions a year) and “non-recurrent” or “acute” use (less than three prescriptions a year) within each therapeutic class. Descriptions of the top five most commonly used drugs evaluated for off label status within each anatomical class.


Three levels of drug use could be distinguished in the study population: high (>10/100 children per year), moderate (1–10/100 children per year), and low (<1/100 children per year). For all age categories, anti-infective, dermatological, and respiratory drugs were in the high use group, whereas cardiovascular and antineoplastic drugs were always in the low use group. Emollients, topical steroids, and asthma drugs had the highest prevalence of recurrent use, but relative use of low prevalence drugs was more often recurrent than acute. In the top five highest prevalence drugs topical inhaled and systemic steroids, oral contraceptives, and topical or systemic antifungal drugs were most commonly used off label.


This overview of outpatient paediatric prescription patterns in a large European population could provide information to prioritise paediatric therapeutic research needs.

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