Children's use of asthma controller drugs doubles

Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376

The proportion of children who used a prescribed controller drug to treat their asthma doubled from 29 percent in 1997-1998 to 58 percent in 2007-2008, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Asthma controller drugs, such as corticosteroids, control inflammation, thereby reducing the likelihood of airway spasms; asthma reliever drugs, such as short-acting beta-2-agonists, open up the airways to make breathing easier; and leukotrienes help prevent asthma symptoms from occurring.

AHRQ also found that during the 1997-1998 and 2007-2008 timeframes:

  • Use of inhaled corticosteroids, a type of controller drug, increased from 15.5 percent to 40 percent. Use of other controller drugs also increased: beta agonists (from 3 percent to 13 percent) and leukotrienes (from 3 percent to 34 percent).
  • Use of reliever and oral corticosteroid drugs declined from 44 percent to 30 percent and from 17 percent to 9 percent, respectively.
  • Average annual total spending for all asthma drugs more than quadrupled from $527 million to $2.5 billion. Specifically, spending for controller drugs grew from $280 million to $2.1 billion and for reliever drugs, the increase was $222 million to $352 million (all in 2008 dollars).
  • Spending for oral corticosteroids fell from $25 million to $8 million (2008 dollars).

The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. For more information, view Statistical Brief #341: Changes in Children's Use and Expenditures for Asthma Medications, United States, 1997-1998 to 2007-2008.

For more information, contact Bob Isquith at bob.isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of December 2011
Internet Citation: Children's use of asthma controller drugs doubles: Research Activities, December 2011, No. 376. December 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/dec11/1211RA29.html