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1.  Which patients are prescribed inhaled anti-asthma drugs? 
Thorax  1994;49(11):1090-1095.
BACKGROUND--Prescribing rates for inhaled anti-asthmatic drugs in the UK vary considerably from area to area and between individual practices. The objectives of this study were to determine the prevalence of patients prescribed inhaled steroids and beta agonist bronchodilators, the indications for these prescriptions, and to relate prescribing to the recorded levels of morbidity for specific respiratory disease. METHODS--Anonymised patient-specific prescription and diagnostic data were extracted from computerised general practice records for the 41 practices in the Northern region (total population 330,749) whose data had been validated for inclusion in a research databank. Patients were included if they were either prescribed an inhaled steroid or bronchodilator during a 12 month period, or had a recorded diagnosis of asthma, bronchitis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Prescribing of inhalers per 1000 population was determined within age, sex, and diagnostic groups. Respiratory diagnosis rates within different patient groups were used to measure the underlying level of morbidity in the population. RESULTS--Inhaled anti-asthma drugs were prescribed for 5% of the study population. Prescribing prevalences peaked at ages 5-14 (steroids 40 per 1000 population; bronchodilators 68 per 1000) and at ages 65-74 (steroids 53 per 1000; bronchodilators 79 per 1000). Prescribing frequency for both drugs increased from two or three items per patient annually at age 0-14 to about six in the over 65 age group. Of the 39,424 respiratory patients 38% received inhalers and 7% only non-inhaler medication. Inhaler therapy was used in only 6% of patients with bronchitis, but in 66% of those with asthma, though the proportions varied with patient age and gender. Study practices differed in their overall levels of both inhaler prescribing and respiratory diagnosis, and had lower prescribing patterns of these drugs than other practices in the Northern region. CONCLUSIONS--Inhaled steroid and bronchodilator prescribing have age-related and gender-related prevalences. Treatment for respiratory diagnoses varies with patient age and gender, and with the diagnosis. Prescribing differences between practices are attributable to variation in both diagnostic rates for respiratory disease and therapeutic intervention patterns. For asthma patients study practices show consensus in approach, perhaps illustrating the value of clear guidelines for asthma prescribing.
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PMCID: PMC475267  PMID: 7831622
4.  A prescribing incentive scheme for non-fundholding general practices: an observational study. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1996;313(7056):535-538.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of a financial incentive scheme on prescribing in non-fundholding general practices. DESIGN: Observational study. SETTING: Non-fundholding general practices in former Northern region in 1993-4. INTERVENTION: Target savings were set for each group of practices; those that achieved them were paid a portion of the savings. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Financial performance; prescribing patterns in major therapeutic groups and some specific therapeutic areas; rates of generic prescribing; and performance against a measure of prescribing quality. SUBJECTS: 459 non-fundholding general practices, grouped into three bands according to the ratio of their indicative prescribing amount to the local average (band A > or = 10% above average, B between average and 10% above, C below average). RESULTS: 102 (23%) of 442 practices achieved their target savings (18%, 19%, and 27% of bands A, B, and C respectively). Band C practices that achieved their target had a lower per capita prescribing frequency for gastrointestinal drugs, inhaled steroids, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy. There were no other significant differences in prescribing frequency, and no reduction in the quality of prescribing in achieving practices. Total savings of pounds 1.54 m on indicative prescribing amounts were achieved. Payments from the incentive scheme and discretionary quality awards resulted in pounds 463,000 being returned to practices for investment in primary care. CONCLUSIONS: The prescribing behaviour of non-fundholding general practitioners responded to financial incentives in a similar way to that of fundholding practitioners. The incentive scheme did not seem to reduce the quality of prescribing.
PMCID: PMC2351914  PMID: 8789984

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