Use of topical glucocorticoids: a population-based cohort study

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Abstract

Background

Little is known about the prescriptions of topical glucocorticoids in the general population.

Objectives

To report an overall picture of topical glucocorticoid prescriptions in France.

Methods

This study used the Echantillon Généraliste de Bénéficiaires (EGB) database, a 1/97th random sampling of the French population covered by the main national healthcare insurance system (approximately 90% of the whole population). All patients prescribed topical glucocorticoids over a 5-year period (1 January 2011 to 31 December 2015) were identified using a specific code list for topical glucocorticoids.

Results

Over the 5-year study period, 662 531 individuals were recorded for at least 1 day in the EGB. Among them, 220 345 (33.3%) were prescribed at least once topical glucocorticoid. The prevalence of topical glucocorticoid prescription increased regularly from 2011 (11.7%) to 2015 (12.5%). A total of 922 026 tubes of topical glucocorticoids were dispensed, mainly high-potency glucocorticoids, and were mainly prescribed by general practitioners (73.1%). A total of 1713 (0.8%) patients were prescribed at least 24 tubes over a calendar year. These patients were more frequently men (P < 0.001) and older (P < 0.001) than the overall population of patients prescribed topical glucocorticoids. The 124 844 tubes prescribed to these patients had stronger potency than those prescribed to the overall population (P < 0.001) and were mostly prescribed by general practitioners (68.1%). The reasons for prescription were available for only 371 patients (21.7%) and were mainly psoriasis, auto-immune bullous dermatoses and eczema.

Conclusion

About 12% of the French general population is prescribed topical glucocorticoids at least once each year. Most prescriptions are issued by general practitioners, dermatologists being the prescribers in less than one-quarter of cases.

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