Atlas reveals wide variation in asthma meds


1 Dec 2015

Wide variations in prescribing rates for asthma medications have been revealed in the first Australian Atlas of Healthcare Variation.

The Atlas published by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care gives a clear picture of substantial variation in healthcare use across areas such as antibiotic prescribing, surgical, mental health and diagnostic services.

“Some variation is expected and associated with need-related factors… however, the weight of evidence in Australia and internationally suggests that much of the variation documented in the atlas is likely to be unwarranted,” the report said.

The report showed wide variations in the dispensing of medicines for asthma.

For instance the number of prescriptions for asthma medications in children aged 3 to 19 years was 41.1 times higher in the area with the highest rate compared to the area with the lowest rate.

For people aged between 20-44 years the number of prescriptions was 19.6 times higher in the area with the highest rate compared to the area with the lowest rate.

Reasons for these variations included rates of smoking, distribution of Indigenous people, socio-economic diaparities and clinicians prescribing preferences, the report said.

It also showed that while Australia had higher rates of asthma compared with other countries, hospitalisation was low.

From 2010–11 to 2012–13, on average 15,111 children and young people were admitted to hospital for asthma in Australia each year.

This may reflect a strong emphasis on the use of asthma management plans in primary care, the report said.

Similarly, the number of admissions among adults was low but admission rates were higher in remote areas of Australia, which reflected the higher prevalence of asthma and COPD in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Click here to read the full report

Related story: Restrict access to overprescribed antimicrobials: Atlas

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