The aim of this exploratory analysis was to showcase the use of PBS subsidised prescriptions with NHS data and to assess the feasibility of using PBS subsidised prescriptions to replace the medications questionnaire module in future cycles of the NHS. Based on the analysis, the administrative data provides similar or higher quality information for most ATC Classification System medications groups compared to survey data.
After comparing two time windows, the analysis illustrates the PBS subsidised prescriptions should align as close to the NHS reference period as possible in order to achieve conceptually comparable results. However, for analysis purposes utilising PBS subsidised prescriptions over a longer period would allow for a larger breadth of research to be undertaken. An advantage of the PBS subsidised prescriptions data is the availability of a range of time periods which can be chosen depending on the research question, whereas the NHS data is constrained to a two week window for the purposes of improving respondent recall and to reduce cognitive load.
In the NHS, respondents would still be asked about medications used for specific long-term health conditions of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high sugar levels, and asthma medication use. This is due to the high priority data need to ascertain the treatment and management of these long-term health conditions to help improve outcomes.
As illustrated in the analysis, over-the-counter medications are a data gap in the PBS subsidised prescriptions. It would be worth investigating how to expand or complement the medications data represented in the MADIP asset to include over-the-counter medications, private prescriptions, dietary supplements and other data gaps. Investigations into questions related to over-the-counter medications, such as aspirin and Ventolin have already begun for use in future NHS cycles.
By using PBS subsidised prescriptions, there is an opportunity to expand the information available to be published such as: the number of prescriptions dispensed; the frequency of scripts; amount of medicine supplied; time between prescriptions; and costs associated, for example, benefit amount or patient contribution amount.
Future linkage between NHS and MADIP could also support additional analysis into relationship outcomes such as; mortality, barriers to health care, hospitalisations and visits to emergency departments with access to prescription medications. Such analysis would be valuable for better understanding and improving health outcomes in Australia.