Background: Geographic Information Systems (GIS) combined with spatial analytical methods could be helpful in examining patterns of drug use. Little attention has been paid to geographic variation of cardiovascular prescription use in Taiwan. The main objective was to use local spatial association statistics to test whether or not the cardiovascular medication-prescribing pattern is homogenous across 352 townships in Taiwan.
Methods: The statistical methods used were the global measures of Moran's I and Local Indicators of Spatial Association (LISA). While Moran's I provides information on the overall spatial distribution of the data, LISA provides information on types of spatial association at the local level. LISA statistics can also be used to identify influential locations in spatial association analysis. The major classes of prescription cardiovascular drugs were taken from Taiwan's National Health Insurance Research Database (NHIRD), which has a coverage rate of over 97%. The dosage of each prescription was converted into defined daily doses to measure the consumption of each class of drugs. Data were analyzed with ArcGIS and GeoDa at the township level.
Results: The LISA statistics showed an unusual use of cardiovascular medications in the southern townships with high local variation. Patterns of drug use also showed more low-low spatial clusters (cold spots) than high-high spatial clusters (hot spots), and those low-low associations were clustered in the rural areas.
Conclusions: The cardiovascular drug prescribing patterns were heterogeneous across Taiwan. In particular, a clear pattern of north-south disparity exists. Such spatial clustering helps prioritize the target areas that require better education concerning drug use.