According to a Dutch study, less than half of all children prescribed asthma medication have been formally diagnosed with asthma by their doctor.
In a study of 74,580 children younger than age 18, the researchers found that 7.5 percent of children received asthma medication and 4.1 percent had a diagnosis of asthma.
Only 49 percent of all children being treated with asthma drugs had been diagnosed as an asthmatic, Dr. Mira G. Zuidgeest from Utrecht University, The Netherlands, and colleagues report in the online journal BioMedCentral (BMC)-Health Services Research.
Further detailed subgroup analyses showed that a diagnosis of asthma was present in "at most 66 percent of children." This was the case "even in children treated extensively with asthma medications, such as children prescribed inhaled corticosteroids or receiving asthma medication on at least three occasions within on year," the investigators point out.
"With both the well-known difficulties in diagnosing children with asthmatic complaints and previous research in mind, we expected to find a discrepancy between prescribing of asthma medication and doctor-diagnosed asthma in our study," Zuidgeest noted in an e-mail to Reuters Health.
However, "we were quite surprised to find that the congruence between prescribing and diagnosing did not improve with age," the researcher added, noting that "the general consensus is that a diagnosis of asthma becomes more certain with increasing age."
The results of this study, Zuidgeest said, show that doctor-diagnosed asthma, "although undoubtedly an important one, is clearly not the only factor involved in prescribing of asthma medication. Therefore, we are currently investigating which other factors influence prescribing of asthma medication."