Inhaled corticosteroids may be overprescribed

Data presented at the TSANZ conference showed that inhaled corticosteroids were often prescribed on a one-off basis together with an antibiotic to patients who likely did not have asthma or COPD.

Associate Professor Helen Reddel from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, and colleagues analysed PBS data on more than one million concession card holders dispensed with any respiratory medications over one year.

Diagnosis data was unavailable for the study, but the data showed that in 2008, 43.6% of the 115,763 patients who were dispensed one-off inhaled corticosteroids were co-dispensed antibiotics.

“The probability is that… around one in six people receiving inhaled corticosteroids were unlikely to have chronic airways disease,” Professor Reddel said.

“The co-dispensing of oral antibiotics, and the large peak in winter months, suggested that the inhalers were… being prescribed for symptoms of

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