Record linkage for pharmacoepidemiological studies in cancer patients
An increasing need has developed for the post-approval surveillance of (new) anti-cancer drugs by means of pharmacoepidemiology and outcomes research in the area of oncology. Objectives: To create an overview that makes researchers aware of the available database linkages in Northern America and Europe which facilitate pharmacoepidemiology and outcomes research in cancer patients. Methods: In addition to our own database, i.e. the Eindhoven Cancer Registry (ECR) linked to the PHARMO Record Linkage System, we considered database linkages between a population-based cancer registry and an administrative healthcare database that at least contains information on drug use and offers a longitudinal perspective on healthcare utilization. Eligible database linkages were limited to those that had been used in multiple published articles in English language included in Pubmed. The HMO Cancer Research Network (CRN) in the US was excluded from this review, as an overview of the linked databases participating in the CRN is already provided elsewhere. Researchers who had worked with the data resources included in our review were contacted for additional information and verification of the data presented in the overview. Results: The following database linkages were included: the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End-Results-Medicare; cancer registry data linked to Medicaid; Canadian cancer registries linked to population-based drug databases; the Scottish cancer registry linked to the Tayside drug dispensing data; linked databases in the Nordic Countries of Europe: Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark; and the ECR-PHARMO linkage in the Netherlands. Descriptives of the included database linkages comprise population size, generalizability of the population, year of first data availability, contents of the cancer registry, contents of the administrative healthcare database, the possibility to select a cancer-free control cohort, and linkage to other healthcare databases. Conclusions: The linked databases offer a longitudinal perspective, allowing for observations of health care utilization before, during, and after cancer diagnosis. They create new powerful data resources for the monitoring of post-approval drug utilization, as well as a framework to explore the (cost-)effectiveness of new, often expensive, anti-cancer drugs as used in everyday practice.