TitleComparison of medicines management strategies in insurance schemes in middle-income countries: four case studies
AuthorsKaplan WA, Ashigbie PG, Brooks MI, Wirtz VJ
PublicationJ Pharm Policy Practice. 2017 May; 10(17).


Many middle-income countries are scaling up health insurance schemes to provide financial protection and access to affordable medicines to poor and uninsured populations. Although there is a wealth of evidence on how high income countries with mature insurance schemes manage cost-effective use of medicines, there is limited evidence on the strategies used in middle-income countries. This paper compares the medicines management strategies that four insurance schemes in middle-income countries use to improve access and cost-effective use of medicines among beneficiaries.
We compare key strategies promoting cost-effective medicines use in the New Rural Cooperative Medical Scheme (NCMS) in China, National Health Insurance Scheme in Ghana, Jamkesmas in Indonesia and Seguro Popular in Mexico. Through the peer-reviewed and grey literature as of late 2013, we identified strategies that met our inclusion criteria as well as any evidence showing if, and/or how, these strategies affected medicines management. Stakeholders involved and affected by medicines coverage policies in these insurance schemes were asked to provide relevant documents describing the medicines related aspects of these insurance programs. We also asked them specifically to identify publications discussing the unintended consequences of the strategies implemented.
Use of formularies, bulk procurement, standard treatment guidelines and separation of prescribing and dispensing were present in all four schemes. Also, increased transparency through publication of tender agreements and procurement prices was introduced in all four. Common strategies shared by three out of four schemes were medicine price negotiation or rebates, generic reference pricing, fixed salaries for prescribers, accredited preferred provider network, disease management programs, and monitoring of medicines purchases. Cost-sharing and payment for performance was rarely used. There was a lack of performance monitoring strategies in all schemes.
Most of the strategies used in the insurance schemes focus on containing expenditure growth, including budget caps on pharmaceutical expenditures (Mexico) and ceiling prices on medicines (all four countries). There were few strategies targeting quality improvement as healthcare providers are mostly paid through fixed salaries, irrespective of the quality of their prescribing or the health outcomes actually achieved. Monitoring healthcare system performance has received little attention.