General practitioners' views on the influence of cost on the prescribing of asthma preventer medicines: A qualitative study
Objective. Out-of-pocket costs strongly affect patient adherence with medicines. For asthma, guidelines recommend that most patients should be prescribed regular low-dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) alone, but in Australia most are prescribed combination ICS-long-acting β2-agonists (LABA), which cost more to patients and government. The present qualitative study among general practitioners (GPs) explored the acceptability, and likely effect on prescribing, of lower patient copayments for ICS alone.
Methods. Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with 15 GPs from the greater Sydney area; the interviews were transcribed and thematically analysed.
Results. GPs reported that their main criteria for selecting medicines were appropriateness and effectiveness. They did not usually discuss costs with patients, had low awareness of out-of-pocket costs and considered that these were seldom prohibitive for asthma patients. GPs strongly believed that patient care should not be compromised to reduce cost to government. They favoured ICS-LABA combinations over ICS alone because they perceived that ICS-LABA combinations enhanced adherence and reduced costs for patients. GPs did not consider that lower patient copayments for ICS alone would affect their prescribing.
Conclusion. The results suggest that financial incentives, such as lower patient copayments, would be unlikely to encourage GPs to preferentially prescribe ICS alone, unless accompanied by other strategies, including evidence for clinical effectiveness. GPs should be encouraged to discuss cost barriers to treatment with patients when considering treatment choices.