Evaluation of a national pharmacy-based syndromic surveillance system
Canada Communicable Disease Report
Traditional public health surveillance provides accurate information but is typically not timely. New early warning systems leveraging timely electronic data are emerging, but the public health value of such systems is still largely unknown. To assess the timeliness and accuracy of pharmacy sales data for both respiratory and gastrointestinal infections and to determine its utility in supporting the surveillance of gastrointestinal illness. To assess timeliness, a prospective and retrospective
... nalysis of data feeds was used to compare the chronological characteristics of each data stream. To assess accuracy, Ontario antiviral prescriptions were compared to confirmed cases of influenza and cases of influenza-like-illness (ILI) from August 2009 to January 2015 and Nova Scotia sales of respiratory over-the-counter products (OTC) were compared to laboratory reports of respiratory pathogen detections from January 2014 to March 2015. Enteric outbreak data (2011-2014) from Nova Scotia were compared to sales of gastrointestinal products for the same time period. To assess utility, pharmacy sales of gastrointestinal products were monitored across Canada to detect unusual increases and reports were disseminated to the provinces and territories once a week between December 2014 and March 2015 and then a follow-up evaluation survey of stakeholders was conducted. Ontario prescriptions of antivirals between 2009 and 2015 correlated closely with the onset dates and magnitude of confirmed influenza cases. Nova Scotia sales of respiratory OTC products correlated with increases in non-influenza respiratory pathogens in the community. There were no definitive correlations identified between the occurrence of enteric outbreaks and the sales of gastrointestinal OTCs in Nova Scotia. Evaluation of national monitoring showed no significant increases in sales of gastrointestinal products that could be linked to outbreaks that included more than one province or territory. Monitoring of pharmacy-based drug prescriptions and OTC sales can provide a timely and accurate complement to traditional respiratory public health surveillance activities but initial evaluation did not show that tracking gastrointestinal-related OTCs were of value in identifying an enteric disease outbreak in more than one province or territory during the study period.