Children suffering from asthma are being given incorrect treatments for the disease because GPs are are ignoring prescribing guidelines, a study claims.
Research published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood looked at the number of prescriptions issued for asthma drugs by community doctors in the UK between 2000 and 2006.
These figures were then matched with guidance issued by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) on the most appropriate drug treatments for children with asthma.
The BTS discourages the use of syrups designed to open up the airways, because they have a systemic rather than a targeted effect, and do not control asthma symptoms well.
But the figures show that although prescriptions for this type of medication fell by 60%, 121,000 prescriptions for the medicine were still written out in 2006.
And despite concerns about the effects of long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) in children, and recommendations to curb their use, the total number of these prescriptions almost doubled.
Around a million children in the UK have asthma, and about a third of youngsters aged between five and 13 visit their doctor because of problems with it.
The report's Australian authors said: "Changes in prescribing practice are unlikely to be the result of an increase in the prevalence of asthma.
"Nor are they likely to be attributable to population changes, because children under the age of 18 in the UK fell between 2000 and 2006."
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Archives of Disease in Childhood