News & Views
Correspondence

Capture of systemic anticancer medicines in Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data likely higher than previously reported

Dominique L Favell, Monica Tang, Benjamin Daniels, Claire M Vajdic, Helga Zoega, Salllie-Anne Pearson

Published 30 June 2020. https://doi.org/10.17061/phrp3022013
Favell DL, Tang M, Daniels B, Vajdic CM, Zoega H, Pearson SA. Capture of systemic anticancer medications in Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data likely higher than previously reported. Public Health Res Pract. 2020;30(2):e3022013.

Linked articles:
Original publication
Authors' reply

  • Citation

Letter to the Editor

We welcome the Tervonen et al. article, Capture of systemic anticancer therapy use by routinely collected health datasets (2020;30(1):e3012004)1, addressing the fit-for-purpose nature of Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS) and other routine data to capture ‘fact of treatment’ for people receiving anticancer medicines in NSW public hospitals (2008–2012). Compared with treatment recorded in the NSW Clinical Cancer Registry (ClinCR), they found PBS capture rates of >80%, but this varied by cancer type.

To our knowledge, the NSW ClinCR has not been validated as the gold standard for treatment ascertainment.2 We also believe the authors’ findings likely underestimate PBS capture rates.

    1. The analysis examined if patients had a PBS record indicating anticancer treatment within 60 days of the ClinCR treatment start date; this is more specific than the stated study aims. Importantly, treatments initiated in public hospitals due to urgency, treatment intensity, or multiple modality treatment are not captured in the PBS data (as medicine costs are billed to the hospital). However, treatment would be recorded in the PBS after public hospital discharge, which could be >60 days after the first recorded ClinCR treatment.
    2. The analysis included oral treatments, with the exception of hormone therapy. PBS ascertainment of hormone therapy is higher than in hospital records (the source of the ClinCR data).3 For cancers where oral therapies were the mainstay of treatment, the authors report high PBS capture rates (92% for neurological cancers). The overwhelming majority of breast cancers are treated with hormone therapy4; if these treatments were included in the analysis, higher PBS capture rates may have been observed.
    3. As stated by the authors, PBS ascertainment has improved since 2012 due to individual-level processing of PBS items dispensed and administered in public hospital outpatient settings. Moreover, the study was necessarily restricted to public hospitals; capture rates for the entire cancer treatment population are likely to be higher as private hospital inpatients can be prescribed PBS medicines.

Finally, we reiterate the authors’ conclusions; researchers must establish the utility of patient-level PBS data to address specific research questions relating to anticancer treatment. Quantifying capture rates by cancer site alone does not account for staging, different treatment modalities, sequencing, and delivery settings.

Author details

About the author/s

Dominique L Favell | Medicines Policy Research Unit, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Australia

Monica Tang | Medicines Policy Research Unit, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Australia

Benjamin Daniels | Medicines Policy Research Unit, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Australia

Claire M Vajdic | Cancer Epidemiology Research Unit, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Australia

Helga Zoega | Medicines Policy Research Unit, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Australia; Centre for Public Health Sciences Faculty of Medicine, University of Iceland, Reykjavik

Salllie-Anne Pearson | Medicines Policy Research Unit, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Australia

Corresponding author

Dominique L Favell | d.favell@student.unsw.edu.au

Competing interests

The Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney has received funding from AbbVie Australia to conduct research, unrelated to the present study. AbbVie did not have any knowledge of, or involvement in, the present study.

 

Copyright:

Creative Commons License

© 2020 Favell et al. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence, which allows others to redistribute, adapt and share this work non-commercially provided they attribute the work and any adapted version of it is distributed under the same Creative Commons licence terms.

References

1. Tervonen HE, Creighton N, Zhao GW, Ng M, Currow DC. Capture of systemic anticancer therapy use by routinely collected health datasets. Public Health Res Pract. 2020;30(1):e3012004. CrossRef | PubMed

2. Cancer Institute NSW. Whitepaper: CINSW clinical cancer data 2008–2012: an overview and guide for prospective researchers. Sydney: NSW Government CINSW; 2020 [cited 2020 Jun 4]. Available from: www.cancer.nsw.gov.au/getattachment/data-research/cancer-related-data/request-unlinked-unit-record-data-for-research/E17-38991-Whitepaper-NSW-Clinical-Cancer-Registry-v1-3-10-March-2020.PDF?lang=en-AU

3. Harris CA, Daniels B, Ward RL, Pearson SA. Retrospective comparison of Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme claims data with prescription data in HER2-positive early breast cancer patients, 2008–2012. Public Health Res Pract. 2017;27(5):e275174. CrossRef | PubMed

4. Kelly E, Lu CY, Albertini S, Vitry A. Longitudinal trends in utilization of endocrine therapies for breast cancer: an international comparison. J Clin Pharm Ther. 2015;40(1):e76–82. CrossRef | PubMed