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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Identifying patients with chronic conditions using pharmacy data in Switzerland: an updated mapping approach to the classification of medications

Carola A Huber1*, Thomas D Szucs2, Roland Rapold1 and Oliver Reich1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, Helsana Insurance Group, P.O. Box, 8081 Zürich, Switzerland

2 Institute of Pharmaceutical Medicine/European Center of Pharmaceutical Medicine, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:1030  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-1030

Published: 30 October 2013

Abstract

Background

Quantifying population health is important for public health policy. Since national disease registers recording clinical diagnoses are often not available, pharmacy data were frequently used to identify chronic conditions (CCs) in populations. However, most approaches mapping prescribed drugs to CCs are outdated and unambiguous. The aim of this study was to provide an improved and updated mapping approach to the classification of medications. Furthermore, we aimed to give an overview of the proportions of patients with CCs in Switzerland using this new mapping approach.

Methods

The database included medical and pharmacy claims data (2011) from patients aged 18 years or older. Based on prescription drug data and using the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification system, patients with CCs were identified by a medical expert review. Proportions of patients with CCs were calculated by sex and age groups. We constructed multiple logistic regression models to assess the association between patient characteristics and having a CC, as well as between risk factors (diabetes, hyperlipidemia) for cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and CVD as one of the most prevalent CCs.

Results

A total of 22 CCs were identified. In 2011, 62% of the 932′612 subjects enrolled have been prescribed a drug for the treatment of at least one CC. Rheumatologic conditions, CVD and pain were the most frequent CCs. 29% of the persons had CVD, 10% both CVD and hyperlipidemia, 4% CVD and diabetes, and 2% suffered from all of the three conditions. The regression model showed that diabetes and hyperlipidemia were strongly associated with CVD.

Conclusions

Using pharmacy claims data, we developed an updated and improved approach for a feasible and efficient measure of patients’ chronic disease status. Pharmacy drug data may be a valuable source for measuring population’s burden of disease, when clinical data are missing. This approach may contribute to health policy debates about health services sources and risk adjustment modelling.

Keywords:
Population health; Pharmacy data; Medication classification; Chronic conditions