BACKGROUND: There are inadequate data on prescribed drug utilization in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Drug utilization research (DUR) in this region is hampered by lack of access to databases that capture prescribed drug utilization such as health insurance claims, electronic medical records and disease registries. The primary objective of this MiniReview was to describe the content of the NHIS claims database in the context of the health care system in Ghana. We will also review the possibilities and limitations of analysing this novel database for drug utilization research (DUR) in Ghana.
METHODS: We reviewed the history, composition of the database, coverage and health systems in Ghana. To demonstrate the application of the NHIS claims database for DUR, we reviewed the NHIS' drug formulary (NHIS medicines' list), assessed and quantified the utilization of the top 25 most commonly prescribed medicines and their distributions by age, sex, region of residence and by MDCs.
RESULTS: As of December 2014, about 40% (~10.5 million) of the Ghanaian population were active beneficiaries of NHIS. There were 1.43 million unique patients in the NHIS claims database who received services from about 81 providers located in 9 out of the 10 regions in Ghana. The mean age of this sample of beneficiaries was 31 (standard deviation, 22) years, a third of whom were aged <18 years old. Nearly, 2 out of every 3 beneficiaries were females. On average, there were approximately 3 outpatient visits per beneficiary in 2015. There were about 522 unique drugs on the NHIS medicine list. Overall, analgesic was the most prescribed class of medicine (mostly paracetamol and diclofenac). Antimalarials, artemether-lumefantrine, were observed as the second most prescribed medicines followed by anti-infectives (metronidazole) and antihypertensives (amlodipine).
CONCLUSION: The Ghana NHIS claims database is a great resource for DUR. This database could also be extended to facilitate pharmacoepidemiological and other health services' research especially if transformed into one of the existing standardized common data models.