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A comparison of self-reported oral contraceptive use and automated pharmacy data in perimenopausal and early postmenopausal women

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Oral contraceptive (OC) use can occur throughout a woman's reproductive life span with the potential for long-term impacts on health. To assess potential measurement error in prior OC use, this study compared level of agreement between self-reported prior OC use and pharmacy dispensing data in perimenopausal and/or early postmenopausal women.


The study's 1399 women (ages, 45-59 years) were participants in a population-based case-control study of the association between OC use and fracture risk. Episodes of lifetime self-reported OC use (in months) were collected, by telephone interview, for January 1, 2008 through November 25, 2012. Pharmacy fills, back to 1980, were collected from automated data. Agreement was measured using the prevalence-adjusted and bias-adjusted kappa index.


The number of women with OC pharmacy fills was 11% to 45% higher than those who reported OC use during each time period. Between-measures agreement was better for more recent use. Prevalence-adjusted and bias-adjusted kappa index values ranged from 0.88 (95% confidence interval, 0.85-0.90) within 5 years from the reference date to 0.65 (95% confidence interval, 0.59-0.71) within 15 to 20 years.


For studies designed to assess the long-term effects of OC use, the current results are reassuring in noting moderate agreement between self-reported OC use and pharmacy data for up to 15 to 20 years before the interview.

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