Concordance assessment of self-reported medication use in the Netherlands three-generation Lifelines Cohort Study with the pharmacy database The PharmLines Initiative

Background: While self-reported data are commonly used as a source of medication use for pharmaco-epidemiological studies, such information is prone to forms of bias. Several previous studies showed that various factors like age, type of drug and data collection method may influence accuracy. We aimed to assess the concordance of the self-reported medication use that was documented at entry to the Lifelines Cohort Study, a three-generation follow-up study in the Netherlands that started in 2006 and included over 167,000 participants.

Materials and methods: As part of the PharmLines Initiative, we collected medication data from the Lifelines participants encoded according to the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) coding scheme and linked the data via Statistics Netherlands to the widely used and representative pharmacy prescription database of the University of Groningen, Analyses were conducted at second level of ATC coding for all recorded medications as well as a top list of most used medications at drug-specific fifth level. Cohen’s kappa statistics were used to measure the concordance for all participants according to sex and age.

Results: The level of concordance between the two data sources largely differed according to the therapeutic class. Medication used for the cardiovascular system and diabetes, thyroid therapy, bisphosphonates and anti-thrombotic drugs showed a very good agreement (κ>0.75). Medication as needed or prone to stigmatization bias showed a moderate agreement (κ=0.41–0.60), whereas medications used for short periods of time showed a fair agreement (κ=0.0–0.4). Concordance was similar for males and females, but younger adults tended to have lower concordance rates than older adults. 

Conclusion: The self-reported method was valid for capturing prevalent chronic medication use at one moment in time, but invalid for medication used for short periods of time. There is no effect of sex on the agreement, and more studies are needed on the influence of age. Future pharmaco-epidemiological studies should preferably combine the two data sources to achieve the highest accuracy of drug exposure rates.

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  • Clinical Epidemiology


  • Sediq, R
  • Van der Schans, J
  • Dotinga, A
  • Alingh, RA
  • Wilffert, B
  • Hak, E
  • et al.

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