To assess trends in asthma management and to identify factors associated with increasing short-acting (SA) beta-agonist utilization in British Columbia using administrative prescription data.
A retrospective cohort analysis.
All patients between 13 and 50 years of age who had received at least one prescription for a SA beta-agonist covered by BC Pharmacare between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 1998.
Cross-sectional analysis of all patients, and longitudinal analyses only of patients who had received at least one SA beta-agonist prescription in each of the 3 years. Trends in asthma medication use over time were evaluated using repeated-measures Mantel-Haenszel tests. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with increasing SA beta-agonist use.
A total of 78,758 patients were included in the cohort. No decrease in the annual prevalence of receiving more than four canisters per year of a SA beta-agonist was identified between 1996 and 1998. A total of 12,844 patients filled at least one SA beta-agonist prescription each year. Time-trend analysis showed an overall increasing probability of not receiving an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) agent in this population (p = 0.002). In patients exhibiting low SA beta-agonist use, > 18 years of age (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.5), male gender (adjusted OR, 1.7), and in receipt of social assistance (adjusted OR, 2.3) were associated with receiving increasing amounts of SA beta-agonist agents over the 3 years. In patients with a high degree of use of SA beta-agonists, only the receipt of social assistance (adjusted OR, 1.3) was significantly associated with increasing use.
Despite the development and dissemination of asthma management guidelines, there was no trend toward decreasing SA beta-agonist use. An unexpected trend toward decreasing ICS utilization was identified. Receiving social assistance was a risk factor for increasing SA beta-agonist use, independent of baseline utilization.