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Application of a framework for determining number of drugs.

Goedken AM, Lund BC, Cook EA, Schroeder MC, Brooks JM. Application of a framework for determining number of drugs. BMC research notes. 2016 May 13; 9(1):272.

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BACKGROUND: There are many different methodologies used in the literature for determining the number of drugs used by a patient, and many are incompletely described. This may be attributable to the lack of a framework to help investigators choose and describe their methods and the lack of evidence on the implications of the choice. The purpose of the study was to propose a framework and illustrate how that framework can be used to create and succinctly describe various approaches to counting the number of drugs used by patients and to examine the impact of varying individual components of the framework on the resulting drug count. METHODS: The three component framework requires specification of scope, uniqueness, and timeframe. The framework was applied to Medicare beneficiaries admitted for acute myocardial infarction in 2008. Drug use was ascertained by Part D prescription drug event files. A default measure for drug count was established, and fourteen additional measures were created by separately altering individual components of the default to illustrate the application of the framework and understand how these changes impacted drug count. Median drug counts and the frequency distributions of beneficiaries experiencing a change in count from default were produced for each measure. RESULTS: The median drug count for the default measure was 4. Alteration of the timeframe component had the largest impact on drug counts, with a look-back period of 180 days producing a median count of 8 and changing the count by at least two for 73 % of patients. Variations of the other components had less impact. CONCLUSION: Our framework is intended to be used by investigators to select an approach to counting number of drugs in their studies. Extending the timeframe over which fills from a pharmacy refill database could be counted toward the drug count produced the greatest changes in the number of drugs.

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