Rising costs of medications and inequities in access have sparked calls for drug policy reform in the United States and Canada. Control of drug expenditures by prescription cost-sharing for elderly persons and poor persons is a contentious issue because little is known about the health impact in these subgroups.
To determine (1) the impact of introducing prescription drug cost-sharing on use of essential and less essential drugs among elderly persons and welfare recipients and (2) rates of emergency department (ED) visits and serious adverse events associated with reductions in drug use before and after policy implementation.
Interrupted time-series analysis of data from 32 months before and 17 months after introduction of a prescription coinsurance and deductible cost-sharing policy in Quebec in 1996. Separate 10-month prepolicy control and postpolicy cohort studies were conducted to estimate the impact of the drug reform on adverse events.
A random sample of 93 950 elderly persons and 55 333 adult welfare medication recipients.
Mean daily number of essential and less essential drugs used per month, ED visits, and serious adverse events (hospitalization, nursing home admission, and mortality) before and after policy introduction.
After cost-sharing was introduced, use of essential drugs decreased by 9.12% (95% confidence interval [CI], 8.7%-9.6%) in elderly persons and by 14.42% (95% CI, 13.3%-15.6%) in welfare recipients; use of less essential drugs decreased by 15.14% (95% CI, 14.4%-15.9%) and 22.39% (95% CI, 20.9%-23.9%), respectively. The rate (per 10 000 person-months) of serious adverse events associated with reductions in use of essential drugs increased from 5.8 in the prepolicy control cohort to 12.6 in the postpolicy cohort in elderly persons (a net increase of 6.8 [95% CI, 5.6-8.0]) and from 14.7 to 27.6 in welfare recipients (a net increase of 12.9 [95% CI, 10.2-15.5]). Emergency department visit rates related to reductions in the use of essential drugs also increased by 14.2 (95% CI, 8.5-19.9) per 10 000 person-months in elderly persons (prepolicy control cohort, 32.9; postpolicy cohort, 47.1) and by 54.2 (95% CI, 33.5-74.8) among welfare recipients (prepolicy control cohort, 69.6; postpolicy cohort, 123.8). These increases were primarily due to an increase in the proportion of recipients who reduced their use of essential drugs. Reductions in the use of less essential drugs were not associated with an increase in risk of adverse events or ED visits.
In our study, increased cost-sharing for prescription drugs in elderly persons and welfare recipients was followed by reductions in use of essential drugs and a higher rate of serious adverse events and ED visits associated with these reductions.
Comment In: JAMA. 2001 May 9;285(18):2328-911343477
Patient self-management of long-term oral anticoagulation therapy is an effective strategy in a number of clinical situations, but it is currently not a funded option in the Canadian health care system. We sought to compare the incremental cost and health benefits of self-management with those of physician management from the perspective of the Canadian health care payer over a 5-year period.
We developed a Bayesian Markov model comparing the costs and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) accrued to patients receiving oral anticoagulation therapy through self-management or physician management for atrial fibrillation or for a mechanical heart valve. Five health states were defined: no events, minor hemorrhagic events, major hemorrhagic events, thrombotic events and death. Data from published literature were used for transition probabilities. Canadian 2003 costs were used, and utility estimates were obtained from various published sources.
Self-management resulted in 3.50 fewer thrombotic events, 0.78 fewer major hemorrhagic events and 0.12 fewer deaths per 100 patients than physician management. The average discounted incremental cost of self-management over physician management was found to be 989 dollars (95% confidence interval [CI] 310 dollars-1655 dollars) per patient and the incremental QALYs gained was 0.07 (95% CI 0.06-0.08). The cost-effectiveness of self-management was 14,129 dollars per QALY gained. There was a 95% chance that self-management would be cost-effective at a willingness to pay of 23,800 dollars per QALY. Results were robust in probabilistic and deterministic sensitivity analyses.
This model suggests that self-management is a cost-effective strategy for those receiving long-term oral anticoagulation therapy for atrial fibrillation or for a mechanical heart valve.
To determine the patterns of drug use in Estonia for the years 1989 and 1994 1995, i.e. for the years before and after the pharmaceutical services in the country changed from a state monopoly to a competitive market.
The wholesale data from Estonia and the defined daily doses methodology were used. For comparison, national statistics on medicines from Finland and Sweden for the years 1994-1995 are shown.
The general sales of drugs in Estonia decreased almost twofold in all major pharmacological groups from 1989 to 1994 and subsequently increased by 10%-30% in 1995. Substantial differences in patterns of drug use between Estonia and the two Nordic countries were observed. The amount of prescription-only medicines used in Estonia was approximately 25% of that used in Finland and Sweden. The amount of over-the-counter drugs used was 61% of that used in Finland and 58% of that used in Sweden. In the drug use patterns in Estonia, some common trends can be noted: (1) persistent traditions, such as the low use of diuretics, beta-blockers, antithrombotics and inhalant anti-asthmatic drugs; (2) changes in prescription preferences--central anti-adrenergic drugs, pyrazolones, aminoglycosides and barbiturates are being replaced by calcium channel blockers and angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, propionic acid derivatives, cephalosporins and benzodiazepines, respectively; (3) rapidly increasing use of drugs not prescribed in the 1980s, such as hormonal contraceptives, opioids and antiulcer drugs, which strongly improves the quality of pharmacotherapy in Estonia.
The general trends in Estonia and the two Nordic countries are similar--the use of newer and more effective drugs is increasing and that of older ones decreasing. The changes are more rapid in Estonia than in Finland and Sweden, but, because of a short observation period, the use of newer drugs not yet prevailing. The international differences in drug utilization observed in this study may possibly be related mainly to the prescription preferences (e.g. therapeutic traditions) and less dependent on the respective health care systems (e.g. reimbursement schemes) and economic state of the country.
Restricting oxygen administration to those who benefit is desirable.
To determine the impact of alternative strategies for assessing eligibility for domiciliary oxygen on funded oxygen use, quality of life, and costs.
We randomized applicants for domiciliary oxygen therapy to an assessment system that relied on data collected by oxygen providers at the time of application and judgments by Home Oxygen Program personnel (conventional assessment) or to a system of data collection by a respiratory therapist that included, in patients unstable at the time of initial assessment, a repeat assessment after 2 months of stability (alternative assessment).
A total of 276 applicants were allocated to the conventional arm and 270 to the alternative assessment. In the year after application, oxygen use was lower in the alternative arm with no between-group differences in mortality, quality of life, or resource use in the community. Although alternative assessment applicants had on average higher assessment costs by dollars Canadian 155 per applicant, these costs were more than offset by decreased Home Oxygen Program costs of dollars Canadian 596 per applicant using Canadian cost weights. The comparable U.S. dollar figures were dollars US 309 and dollars US 432, respectively, and the difference in cost between strategies was therefore smaller using U.S. cost weights.
Reassessment of applicants for domiciliary oxygen after several months of stability identifies an appreciable portion of initially eligible patients who are no longer eligible, thus reducing program costs to public funders without adverse consequences on quality of life, mortality, or other resource use.
Comment In: Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Sep 1;172(5):517-816120712
The effects of a home care program with 102 courses (2336 patient-days) of intravenous antibiotic therapy were evaluated. Home care nurses changed the intravenous cannula site every 3 days. The initial hospital stay averaged 11.8 days and the duration of home therapy averaged 22.9 days. The diseases treated included osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, endocarditis, cystic fibrosis and pneumonia, staphylococcal bacteremia, blastomycosis, actinomycosis and other soft tissue infections. All classes of commonly used antibiotics, including penicillins, cephalosporins, aminoglycosides and amphotericin B, were administered, alone or in combination. There were no side effects that necessitated discontinuation of home treatment or readmission to hospital. The average cost per patient-day was $58, compared with an estimated $193 for in-hospital therapy; in addition, 2336 hospital bed-days were made available. Most patients were able to resume many or all of their daily activities while receiving intravenous antibiotic therapy.
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