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A comparison of family physician and dermatologist topical corticosteroid prescriptions: a population-based cross-sectional study

Bowie AC, Tadrous M, Thiruchelvam D, Ivers NM, Mohan T, Tu K, Jaakkimainen L, Drucker AM. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2023; Mar 11 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI:

Background — Topical corticosteroids (TCS) are commonly prescribed to treat inflammatory skin diseases, and appropriate prescription is necessary for treatment success.

Objective — To quantify differences between TCS prescribed by dermatologists at consultation and family physicians for patients treated for any skin condition.

Methods — Using administrative health data in Ontario, we included all Ontario Drug Benefit recipients who filled at least one TCS prescription from a dermatologist at consultation and a family physician in the year prior between January 2014 and December 2019. We estimated mean differences and 95% confidence intervals in amount (in grams) and potency between the index dermatologist prescription and the highest and most recent family physician prescription amounts and potencies in the preceding year using linear mixed-effect models.

Results — A total of 69,335 persons were included. The mean dermatologist amount was 34% larger than the highest amount and 54% larger than the most recent amount prescribed by family physicians. There were small but statistically significant differences in potency using established 7-category and 4-category potency classification systems.

Conclusions — Compared to family physicians, dermatologists prescribed substantially larger amounts and similarly potent TCS at consultation. Further research is needed to determine the effect of these differences on clinical outcomes.

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