Primary care electronic health records provide prescribing data in a large proportion of research studies. However, there are many scenarios where a medication is prescribed but this is not recorded in electronic health records, and so researchers need to be aware of common scenarios where missing prescription data could undermine their research.
Scenarios where missing prescription data may be important
A new paper by Duncan Edwards, a researcher and GP at the Primary Care Unit, University of Cambridge, and colleagues describes eight key scenarios where study data can be particularly affected by absent prescriptions in UK primary care databases: (1) out-of-hours, urgent care and acute care prescriptions; (2) specialist-only prescriptions; (3) alternative community prescribing, such as pharmacy, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic medication prescriptions; (4) newly licensed medication prescriptions; (5) medications that do not require prescriptions; (6) hospital inpatient and outpatient prescriptions; (7) handwritten prescriptions; and (8) private pharmacy and private doctor prescriptions.
The authors recommend that all researchers using primary care databases be aware of the potential for missing prescribing data and be sensitive to how this can vary substantially between different medications and patient groups, and over time.
Read the paper
G Okoli, P Myles, T Murray-Thomas, H Shepherd, I. C. K. Wong, D Edwards: Use of Primary Care Data in Research and Pharmacovigilance: Eight Scenarios Where Prescription Data are Absent. Drug Safety, 2021
Lucy Lloyd, Communications, Primary Care Unit
Image by Dr Jon Ferdinand for the Primary Care Unit