Short courses of oral corticosteroid (OCS) medication are recommended for treatment of moderate to severe asthma exacerbations. Concern has been raised about OCS overuse. Our objective is to describe rates of OCS dispensing among children with asthma and factors associated with variation in OCS dispensing.
Claims data for children 1 to <18 years of age with an asthma diagnosis between January 2011 and January 2016 were extracted from the computerized databases of Texas Children’s Health Plan.
In the years 2011 to 2015, 17.1% to 21.8% of children had an asthma diagnosis. In each of these years 42.1% to 44.2% of these children had ≥1 OCS dispensing. OCS dispensing rates were higher for the children 1 to 4 years of age compared with older children. Repeated OCS dispensing was common, and was most common for children 1 to 4 years of age. Most children with an OCS dispensing (81%–83%) did not have other utilization suggesting poor asthma control (excessive β-agonist refills, emergency department visit, or hospitalization for asthma). OCSs were less commonly prescribed to patients whose primary care provider was a board-certified pediatrician compared with other types of primary care providers. There was large variation in OCS prescribing rates among pediatricians (15%–86%). There were minimal differences in asthma emergency department visits and no differences in hospitalization rates by the pediatrician’s OCS dispensing rate quartile.
The patterns of dispensing observed suggest substantial overprescribing of OCS for children with an asthma diagnosis.