Impact of the Minimum Pricing Policy and introduction of brand (generic) substitution into the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme in Australia

P McManus, D J Birkett, J Dudley, A Stevens
Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety 2001, 10 (4): 295-300

PURPOSE: To describe the effects of introducing the Minimum Pricing Policy (MPP) and generic (brand) substitution in 1990 and 1994 respectively on the dispensing of Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) prescriptions both at the aggregate and individual patient level.

METHODS: The relative proportion of prescriptions with a brand premium and those at benchmark was examined 4 years after introduction of the MPP and again 5 years later after generic substitution by pharmacists was permitted. To determine the impact of a price signal at the individual level, case studies involving a patient tracking methodology were conducted on two drugs (fluoxetine and ranitidine) that received a brand premium.

RESULTS: From a zero base when the MPP was introduced in 1990, there were 5.4 million prescriptions (17%) dispensed for benchmark products 4 years later in 1994. At this stage generic (brand) substitution by pharmacists was then permitted and the market share of benchmark brands increased to 45% (25.2 million) by 1999. In the patient tracking studies, a significantly lower proportion of patients was still taking the premium brand of fluoxetine 3 months after the introduction of a price signal compared with patients taking paroxetine which did not have a generic competitor. This was also the case for the premium brand of ranitidine when compared to famotidine. The size of the price signal also had a marked effect on dispensing behaviour with the drug with the larger premium (fluoxetine) showing a significantly greater switch away from the premium brand to the benchmark product.

CONCLUSIONS: The introduction in 1990 of the Minimum Pricing Policy without allowing generic substitution had a relatively small impact on the selection of medicines within the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. However the effect of generic substitution at the pharmacist level, which was introduced in December 1994, resulted in a marked increase in the percentage of eligible PBS items dispensed at benchmark. Case studies showed a larger premium resulted in a greater shift of patients from drugs with a brand premium to the benchmark alternative.

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