ASSET (Age/Sex Standardised Estimates of Treatment): a research model to improve the governance of prescribing funds in Italy

Favato, Giampiero, Mariani, Paolo, Mills, Roger W., Capone, Alessandro, Pelagatti, Matteo, Pieri, Vasco, Marcobelli, Alberico, Trotta, Maria G., Zucchi, Alberto and Catapano, Alberico L. (2007) ASSET (Age/Sex Standardised Estimates of Treatment): a research model to improve the governance of prescribing funds in Italy. PLoS ONE, 2(7), ISSN (online) 1932-6203


BACKGROUND: The primary objective of this study was to make the first step in the modelling of pharmaceutical demand in Italy, by deriving a weighted capitation model to account for demographic differences among general practices. The experimental model was called ASSET (Age/Sex Standardised Estimates of Treatment). METHODS AND MAJOR FINDINGS: Individual prescription costs and demographic data referred to 3,175,691 Italian subjects and were collected directly from three Regional Health Authorities over the 12-month period between October 2004 and September 2005. The mean annual prescription cost per individual was similar for males (196.13 euro) and females (195.12 euro). After 65 years of age, the mean prescribing costs for males were significantly higher than females. On average, costs for a 75-year-old subject would be 12 times the costs for a 25-34 year-old subject if male, 8 times if female. Subjects over 65 years of age (22% of total population) accounted for 56% of total prescribing costs. The weightings explained approximately 90% of the evolution of total prescribing costs, in spite of the pricing and reimbursement turbulences affecting Italy in the 2000-2005 period. The ASSET weightings were able to explain only about 25% of the variation in prescribing costs among individuals. CONCLUSIONS: If mainly idiosyncratic prescribing by general practitioners causes the unexplained variations, the introduction of capitation-based budgets would gradually move practices with high prescribing costs towards the national average. It is also possible, though, that the unexplained individual variation in prescribing costs is the result of differences in the clinical characteristics or socio-economic conditions of practice populations. If this is the case, capitation-based budgets may lead to unfair distribution of resources. The ASSET age/sex weightings should be used as a guide, not as the ultimate determinant, for an equitable allocation of prescribing resources to regional authorities and general practices.

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