Brief Report| Volume 61, ISSUE 7, P714-717, July 2008

The validity of self-reported prescription medication use among adolescents varied by therapeutic class



      Validation studies of self-reported medication use in adolescents have been scarce. The objective of this study was to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of self-reported use of medication using a prescription database as reference standard.

      Study Design and Setting

      The study population consisted of a cohort of 2,613 adolescents aged 15–16 years from the Norwegian youth health survey in 2004 and 2005. Self-reported data on medication use were compared with data from the Norwegian Prescription Database which contains information from all prescription dispensed at Norwegian pharmacies.


      Sensitivity for self-reported questions on medication use was highest for contraceptive pills 99.2% (95% CI 97.7–100) compared to antiasthmatics 79.1% (66.9–91.2), painkillers 48.5% (36.7–60.4), and psychotropic drugs 75.0% (35.6–95.6). Specificity values of self-reported information of psychotropic drugs 89.6% (87.8–91.5) and antiasthmatics 87.4% (85.4–89.5) were higher than for painkillers 80.0% (77.5–82.4) and contraceptive pills 76.2% (72.3–80.1).


      Validity of self-reported previous medication use among adolescents differed by the therapeutic classes of medication. The highest sensitivity was observed for contraceptive pills and lowest for prescribed painkillers.


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