Report to the President: Prescription Drug Coverage, Spending, Utilization, and Prices.. MEPS Data

04/01/2000

The 1996 MEPS includes a pharmacy survey to validate prescription drug utilization reported by respondents, and to obtain direct measures of retail prices paid for drugs. For each prescription drug "event" reported by respondents MEPS endeavors to ascertain the price through the pharmacy survey. The pharmacy data, in combination with the comprehensive respondent data, enables pricing analyses with detailed definitions of coverage status.

However, information was collected from pharmacies in only about half the instances in which a household survey participant mentioned using a specific pharmacy. Overall, of the drug events used to estimate utilization and spending in Chapter 2, about 40 percent have data derived directly from a household/pharmacy match for the same person. Prices were imputed for 60 percent of the remaining events using statistically matched pharmacy events for comparable individuals. To avoid introducing measurement error that could bias comparisons, only non-imputed price data - cases in which there was a direct match of information from a household and a pharmacy - are used in this chapter.23 However, sensitivity analyses (not shown) using the imputed data are very consistent with the data reported here.24

One consequence of this exclusion is that, for any single drug (defined by name, manufacturer, form, and strength), the available sample from MEPS is too small to allow reliable comparison of prices paid by different purchasers. Price comparisons for specific drugs will be made using the IMS data, which have a much larger sample size.25

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