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Estimates of drug treated diabetes incidence and prevalence using Australian administrative pharmaceutical data

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Introduction The incidence and prevalence of diabetes within a population are important public health metrics. Pharmaceutical administrative data may offer a resource that can contribute to quantifying these measures using the recorded signals derived from the drugs used to treat people with diabetes. Objective To estimate the longitudinal incidence and prevalence of drug treated (DT) diabetes in Australia utilising an Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) dataset and compare estimates with community survey data for all diabetes reported in the Australian National Health Survey (NHS). Methods Persons with DT diabetes were identified within the PBS dataset using assigned Anatomic Therapeutic Chemical codes for ‘Drugs used in diabetes’. Prevalent persons with DT diabetes were determined by a single annual treatment, and incident cases from the earliest treatment with diabetes medications. Counts were aggregated by age group and utilised Australian national census data as a denominator to calculate diabetes disease frequencies for the period 2004–14. Comparison of PBS prevalence data was made with NHS surveys over equivalent years. Results The age adjusted incidence of DT diabetes was 3.4/1000 in 2006 and increased to 3.8/1000 in 2011 and 5.1/1000 in 2014. Age adjusted prevalence of DT diabetes in Australia also rose from 26.7/1000 in 2006 to 32.1/1000 in 2011 and 42.1/1000 in 2014. DT diabetes prevalence estimates correlated with NHS estimates of self-reported diabetes prevalence across age groups and in 2014 was r = 0.987. However, PBS estimates of DT diabetes prevalence generally underestimated NHS values of self-reported diabetes in older age groups with mean percentage differences of −22% to −3%. In contrast, PBS data captured more younger persons with diabetes in comparison to NHS data. These differences were then used to adjust DT diabetes incidence rates to provide age specific estimates that could potentially reflect diabetes incidence estimates acquired by community survey. Conclusions PBS data representing dispensed medications prescribed to persons with diabetes offers a perspective for the assessment of diabetes incidence and prevalence. PBS derived DT diabetes prevalence estimates correlate well with community survey estimates of self-reported diabetes, but underestimate NHS data in older age groups. Calibrated DT incidence estimates may potentially reflect community survey derived diabetes incidence estimates and may offer a method for longitudinal monitoring.


Publication Date



International Journal of Population Data Science






(p. 1398)


Swansea University

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