How do ovarian cancer patients with and without medical cards differ?

Prescription data can help answer important research questions on a population level. Researchers at the Registry are currently investigating whether cancer patients taking common medications (e.g.. aspirins, statins, and beta-blockers) have better cancer outcomes than those who are not. This type of research is also referred to as pharmacoepidemiology. One of the aims of the research is to evaluate the effect of exposure to common medications in ovarian cancer patients. The project is conducted in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin and funded by the Health Research Board.

In Ireland, prescribing data are not available for all cancer patients but only those with a medical card. This means that examining the impact of medication use on cancer outcomes can only be done in cancer patients who have medical cards. A previous study by Registry researchers in colorectal cancer patients highlighted that factors such as smoking status and area of residence can predict whether a cancer patient has a medical card. However, little is known about the predictors of medical card status in women with ovarian cancer.

Researchers on the pharmacoepidemiology project evaluated the socio-demographic differences between women with and without medical cards at the time of ovarian cancer diagnosis. This used data from the Primary Care Reimbursement Service (PCRS; which records prescriptions dispensed to medical card holders) linked with Registry records on ovarian cancer.

Analysis revealed that ovarian cancer patients (<70 years) who had medical cards had worse survival than those without medical cards, which is a reflection of worse general health. Medical card holders were also older, more likely to be smokers and more likely living in a poorer area.

The findings are published in the Irish Journal of Medical Sciences.


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