Validity of medication-based co-morbidity indices in the Australian elderly population

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2009 Apr;33(2):126-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2009.00357.x.


Objectives: To determine the validity of two medication-based co-morbidity indices, the Medicines Disease Burden Index (MDBI) and Rx-Risk-V in the Australian elderly population.

Methods: In Phase I, the sensitivity and specificity of both indices were determined in 767 respondents from wave 6 of the Australian Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ALSA). Medication-defined index disease categories were compared to self-reported medical conditions. Correlation with self-rated health was examined and Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess the predictive validity for mortality. Phase II verified the predictive ability of Rx-Risk-V in a sample of 213,191 veterans from Australian Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) database.

Results: MDBI and Rx-Risk-V scores could be calculated for 28% and 73% of the ALSA sample respectively. Both indices had high specificities and low to moderate sensitivities compared to self-reported medical conditions. Total weighted scores were significantly related to self-rated health (p<0.001). Both indices were predictive of mortality (Hazard Ratio (HR) =3.690 (95% CI 2.264-6.015) for MDBI and HR 1.079 (95% CI 1.045-1.114) for Rx-Risk-V. The predictive validity for mortality of Rx-Risk-V was confirmed using DVA data (HR= 1.090, 95% CI 1.088-1.092).

Conclusions: Medication-based co-morbidity indices Rx-Risk-V and MDBI are valid measures of co-morbidity. However, Rx-Risk-V detects more comorbidity in the Australian elderly population and is likely to be a more suitable index to use in administrative datasets, particularly where studies include large numbers of outpatients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Comorbidity*
  • Drug Utilization
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mortality
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Veterans


  • Prescription Drugs