Financial Burden of Prescribed Medicines Included in Outpatient Benefits Package Schemes: Comparative Analysis of Co-Payments for Reimbursable Medicines in European Countries.
The study aimed to analyse the financial burden that co-payments for prescribed and reimbursed medicines pose on patients in European countries.
Five medicines used in acute conditions (antibiotic, analgesic) and in chronic care (hypertension, asthma, diabetes) were selected. Co-payments (standard and five defined population groups, e.g. low-income people, patients with high consumption) were surveyed based on information retrieved from national price lists (September 2017) and co-payment regulation in nine countries (Albania, Austria, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan and Sweden). The financial burden of the selected medicines (originator and lowest-priced generic) was described as the percentage of patients' payments for 1 month's therapy or treatment of one episode in comparison to the national minimum monthly wage.
The study showed large variation in co-payments between the countries. Financial burden resulting from co-payments for reimbursed medicines tended to be higher in lower-income countries (Kyrgyzstan: 9% of minimum monthly wage for generic amlodipine; 2-4% for generic and originator salbutamol; Albania: approximately 3% for originator amoxicillin/clavulanic acid and metformin). Most studied countries applied reduction or exemption mechanisms (children were exempt in five countries, no or lower co-payments for low-income people in five countries, exemptions from co-payments upon reaching a threshold of expenses in six countries).
Co-payments for prescribed medicines can pose a substantial financial burden for outpatients, particularly in lower-income countries. The price of a medicine, availability of lower-priced medicines and the design of co-payments, including exemptions and reductions for specific groups, can considerably impact patients' expenses for medicines.