About the prescription drug counts

Hello, I am working on some projects related to prescription drug expenditure and I am using the IPUMS MEPS data. I am wondering how was the variable RXPRMEDSNO variable created? I saw the quantity of the medications and the quantity unit from the prescribed medicine files (data from MEPS website). I am not sure how to understand the count of the prescribed medications. Does this variable indicate the number of prescription events the individual had (no matter what kind drugs the event represent?)? Thank you.

RXPRMEDSNO reports the count of all fills and refills of prescribed medications that the person obtained during the calendar year. This variable comes from the full-year consolidated (FYC) file that AHRQ releases. Currently, IPUMS MEPS only includes variables from the FYC files; we do not offer the prescribed medicines files through our system yet or use them to generate summary variables (though we hope to do this soon–check back later this year for these data).

Without specific variable names I cannot be certain which variables you are referencing in the prescribed medicines file, but suspect you are referring to the original MEPS variable names RXQUANTY and RXQUANTUNIT. As per the MEPS Prescribed Medicines file documentation for 2018, RXQUANTY is “the quantity of the prescribed medicine dispensed…e.g., number of tablets in the prescription” while RXFRMUNT is the unit associated with that quantity, e.g., capsules, grams, lozenges. I do not believe these variables are used to create the count of prescribed medicines variable (called RXPRMEDSNO in IPUMS MEPS). Based on the descriptions, I suspect that AHRQ derives the counts of prescribed medicines in the FYC data based on the number of records a person has in the prescribed medicines file for a calendar year (each record in the prescribed medicines file is a prescribed medicine reported by the respondent as having been obtained by a member of the household).

IPUMS MEPS also has a user note with information the prescription medication data are collected.

Hi Kari,

Thank you for the detailed answers. It is good to know that the Rx counts (RXPRMEDSNO) is from the FYC data files. And yes, your understanding about my question was correct. RXQUANTY and RXQUANTUNIT are the variables I was talking about. I guess it makes sense that the RXPRMEDSNO (from MEPS) can be the number of prescription medication records a person had in a year. I will look into them more. Thank you!


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