The aim of this study was to quantify the effect of the look back period on the misclassification of new users of antibiotics and asthma medications.
We included all children born in Denmark from 1995 through 2006 and all prescriptions of antibiotics and asthma medication from 1995 through 2011. The study period was 2007 through 2011. True new users redeemed their first prescription in the study period whereas prior users redeemed their first prescription before the study period. Look-back periods ranged from 30?days up to 12?years prior to the study period, and we defined new users as those without a prescription in the look-back period. The relative misclassification (RM) was estimated as the number of defined new users divided by the number of true new users.
For antibiotics, the RM decreased from 4.75 for look-back periods of 30?days to 2.36 for 2?years and 1.33 for 5?years. For asthma medication, the RM decreased from 2.53 for look-back periods of 30?days to 1.48 for 2?years and 1.20 for 5?years. Older age, male gender, and absence of treatment-related diagnoses were associated with higher RM.
Studies applying the new user design are strongly dependent on the available information on prescriptions. For drug classes with intermittent use such as asthma medications, even a 2-year look-back period produced severe misclassification. Excluding children with a prior treatment-related diagnosis can reduce the level of misclassification.