The validity of self-reported prescription medication use among adolescents varied by therapeutic class

Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology, P.O. Box 4404 Nydalen, N-0403 Oslo, Norway.
Journal of Clinical Epidemiology (Impact Factor: 3.42). 08/2008; 61(7):714-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2007.11.013
Source: PubMed


Validation studies of self-reported medication use in adolescents have been scarce. The objective of this study was to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of self-reported use of medication using a prescription database as reference standard.
The study population consisted of a cohort of 2,613 adolescents aged 15-16 years from the Norwegian youth health survey in 2004 and 2005. Self-reported data on medication use were compared with data from the Norwegian Prescription Database which contains information from all prescription dispensed at Norwegian pharmacies.
Sensitivity for self-reported questions on medication use was highest for contraceptive pills 99.2% (95% CI 97.7-100) compared to antiasthmatics 79.1% (66.9-91.2), painkillers 48.5% (36.7-60.4), and psychotropic drugs 75.0% (35.6-95.6). Specificity values of self-reported information of psychotropic drugs 89.6% (87.8-91.5) and antiasthmatics 87.4% (85.4-89.5) were higher than for painkillers 80.0% (77.5-82.4) and contraceptive pills 76.2% (72.3-80.1).
Validity of self-reported previous medication use among adolescents differed by the therapeutic classes of medication. The highest sensitivity was observed for contraceptive pills and lowest for prescribed painkillers.

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    • "An important strength of this study is its use of a comprehensive national prescription register, which eliminates errors in measurement of psychotropic drug use due to inadequate recall by respondents. Another advantage of using register-based information is that it circumvents the common problem of psychotropic drug use being underreported.28,29 However, lack of information on adherence is always an issue when reporting prescription data for drug use. "
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