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A retrospective observational study comparing rescue medication use in children on combined versus separate long-acting β-agonists and corticosteroids
  1. H Elkout1,
  2. J S McLay1,
  3. C R Simpson2,3,
  4. P J Helms1
  1. 1Department of Child Health, Division of Applied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  2. 2Department of General Practice and Primary Care, Division of Applied Health Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  3. 3Centre for Population Health Sciences, Foresterhill Health Centre, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr James S McLay, Division of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital, Westburn Road, Aberdeen AB25 2ZG, UK; j.mclay{at}


Background Data on the efficacy and safety of long-acting β2-agonists (LABA) in children are limited, and current guidelines recommend that LABA always be used with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).

Objective To compare asthma control, assessed by rescue medications use, in children prescribed LABA and ICS as a fixed-dose combination (LABA/ICS) or concurrently via separate inhalers (LABA+ICS).

Methods Retrospective observational study of asthma medication prescribed to children aged 0–18 years registered with 40 primary care practices for the years 2002–6. Asthma control, reflected by requirement for oral corticosteroids (OCS) and/or six or more short-acting β2-agonist (SABA) canisters per year, was assessed for children prescribed LABA/ICS or LABA+ICS.

Results 10 454 (8%) of all registered children received at least one prescription for asthma medication over the study period. Prescribing of LABA/ICS increased significantly, with a concomitant decrease in prescribing of LABA+ICS. Use of OCS increased by 60%, with the lowest use in children prescribed only SABA and highest use in those prescribed LABA. Children prescribed LABA/ICS were significantly less likely than those prescribed LABA+ICS to require OCS rescue therapy and or >6 SABA inhalers a year (OR 1.6; 95% CI 1.1 to 2.2; p=0.04 and OR 1.7; 95% CI 1.1 to 2.5; p=0.005, respectively, for the years 2005–6).

Conclusions The results of this retrospective observational study suggest that children prescribed fixed-dose LABA-and-ICS combination devices achieve better asthma control, as reflected in reduced requirements for SABA and reduced courses of OCS than equivalent doses in separate devices.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.