Asthma pharmacotherapy and utilization by children in 3 managed care organizations

James G. Donahue, Anne L. Fuhlbrigge, Jonathan A. Finkelstein, Joanne Fagan, James M. Livingston, Paula Lozano, Richard Platt, Scott T. Weiss, Kevin B. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Background: Asthma is the most common chronic disease among children and the most frequent cause of hospitalization. Appropriate pharmacotherapy is a cornerstone of published national guidelines for the care of children with asthma. Objective: The goal was to compare the baseline pharmacotherapy and health care utilization from 1996 to 1997 in children with asthma at managed care organizations (MCOs). Methods: A common protocol was used to extract the study sample from 3 MCOs with automated claims and pharmacy databases. Children were selected if they were 3 to 15 years old as of June 1997 with 1 or more encounters (outpatient, emergency department visit, hospitalization) with an asthma diagnosis in the previous year. Results: Of the 13,352 children studied, less than 40% were given controllers during the 12-month interval, with ranges of 15% to 77% by level of bronchodilator use, 31% to 44% by age, and 38% to 42% by MCO. Among children given 6 or more bronchodilators, controller dispensing ranged from 73% to 89% among the 3 MCOs. Variability was most evident for inhaled corticosteroids, for which dispensing ranged from 51% to 70%. Rates of asthma hospitalization and emergency department visits also differed among the MCOs, ranging from 21 to 37 per 1000 person-years and 37 to 142 per 1000 person-years, respectively. Conclusion: Five years after dissemination of national guidelines for care, the pattern of asthma therapy does not reflect guideline recommendations. Variation among health care organizations with respect to asthma therapy and utilization of health services exists. In addition, controller medications may not be used by all children who could benefit from them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1108-1114
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000


  • Asthma
  • Bronchodilators
  • Children
  • Cromolyn
  • Hospitalization
  • Inhaled corticosteroids
  • Practice guidelines

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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