Affordability of medicines is a major challenge facing governments and consumers worldwide. Australia has a strong tradition of providing affordable medicines to the community through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) but rising costs threaten the future viability of the scheme. New approaches are needed to address this challenge, including developing financial incentives for consumers to use low cost, but effective, medicines in preference to higher cost alternatives.
The use of asthma preventer medicines is an opportunity to develop this approach. Currently the vast majority of prescribing in Australia is of higher cost inhaled corticosteroid/long acting beta agonist combination medicines (ICS/LABA) rather than lower cost inhaled corticosteroid alone medicines (ICS). This project explores this issue over three phases to develop a financial incentive for consumers to use ICS alone medicines. In phase one qualitative interviews with people with asthma and parents of children with asthma will be conducted. This will inform a discrete choice experiment (DCE) which will identify what level of utilisation for ICS alone and ICS / LABA combination will occur at different discounts on PBS co-payments for inhalers containing ICS alone. In phase 2 the results of the DCE will be used in an economic analysis to identify the net cost implications and cost-effectiveness of an incentive to encourage use of ICS alone medicines. In the final phase of the project a stakeholder workshop will examine the feasibility and acceptability of the incentive and advise on further testing and policy and practice changes needed to implement the financial incentive.