New Zealand patients’ understanding of brand substitution and opinions on copayment options for choice of medicine brand

Charon Lessing A C, Toni Ashton A and Peter Davis A B

A Health Systems Section, School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, 1142, New Zealand.
B Centre of Methods and Policy Application in the Social Sciences (COMPASS), Faculty of Arts, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, 1142, New Zealand.
C Corresponding author. Email: c.lessing@auckland.ac.nz

Australian Health Review 40(3) 345-350 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/AH15004
Submitted: 12 January 2015  Accepted: 30 July 2015   Published: 14 September 2015

Abstract

Objective The aim of the present study was to better understand the views and experiences of New Zealand patients on switching between brands of prescription medicines and on alternative funding options for the provision of medicines, including an increase in copayments.

Methods A self-administered questionnaire was offered to selected patients through participating community pharmacies. Pharmacies were stratified according to level of deprivation of the community served before random selection and invitation for involvement in the study. Patient understanding of and rationale for brand substitution was assessed. Preference for different copayment options was elicited, together with demographic and other explanatory information.

Results In all, 194 patient-completed questionnaires were returned. Some gaps in patient knowledge and understanding of brand changes were evident. Most respondents indicated a preference for the existing subsidy arrangements with little desire expressed for alternatives. Around half were willing to contribute towards paying for a choice of brand other than the subsidised brand; however, the maximum contribution nominated was disproportionately lower than real cost differences between originator brand and generics.

Conclusion The findings of the present study suggest that although most patients have experienced brand changes without any problems occurring, a lack of knowledge about substitution does persist. There may be some additional gain in ensuring New Zealanders are aware of the full cost of their medicines at the point of dispensing to reinforce the benefits of the Pharmaceutical Management Agency (PHARMAC) purchasing model.

What is known about the topic? Generic reference pricing is used as a mechanism to make savings to pharmaceutical budgets; however, reticence to the use of generic medicines persists.

What does this paper add? Most New Zealand patients experience brand changes without any problems occurring; however, a lack of knowledge about substitution does persist. The dollar value patients indicate they would contribute for brand choice is lower than the true cost difference between brands.

What are the implications for practitioners? Opportunities exist for healthcare professionals to reinforce generic policies and there may be some additional gain in ensuring New Zealanders are aware of the full cost of their medicines at the point of dispensing.