BioScience Trends. 2018;12(5):523-525. (DOI: 10.5582/bst.2018.01201)

Prescription surveillance for early detection system of emerging and reemerging infectious disease outbreaks

Sugawara T, Ohkusa Y, Kawanohara H, Kamei M


Based on prescriptions filled at external pharmacies, prescription surveillance (PS) in Japan has been reporting the estimated numbers of influenza and varicella patients and people prescribed certain drugs since 2009. Every morning, this system estimates the numbers of patients from the numbers of prescriptions filled nationwide for neuraminidase inhibitors, anti-herpes virus drugs, antibiotic drugs, antipyretic analgesics, and multi-ingredient cold medications. Moreover, it can detect "unexplained" infectious diseases that are not explained as infectious diseases monitored by other surveillance systems. Such "unexplained" infectious diseases might be emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases including bioterrorism attacks, which are reportedly difficult to diagnose, at least in early outbreak stages. To ascertain the system's potential benefits, this study examined schemes to detect "unexplained" infectious diseases using PS information. The numbers of patients prescribed the respective drugs are first regressed on the known infectious diseases, time trends, and dummies for day-of-the-week, holidays, and days following a holiday. Known infectious diseases are defined as covered by the National Official Sentinel Surveillance for Infectious Diseases under the Infection Control Law. After the numbers of patients from PS are compared with the predicted numbers of patients, their probabilities of occurrence are calculated. We examined the system's prospective operation from January 2017 through July 2018. The criterion we used to define aberrations varied, from 0.01 to 10-7. For criteria of 0.01 and 10-7 we found 254 and 15 aberrations, respectively. We confirmed its feasibility and effectiveness.

KEYWORDS: Prescription surveillance, pharmacy, emerging and reemerging infectious disease, bioterrorism attack, National Official Sentinel Surveillance for Infectious Diseases

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