Subsidising patient dispensing fees: The cost of injecting equity into the opioid pharmacotherapy maintenance system

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Chalmers, Jenny
Ritter, Alison
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2012
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Introduction and Aims. Australian pharmacotherapy maintenance programs incur costs to patients.These dispensing fees represent a financial burden to patients and are inconsistent with Australian health-care principles. No previous work has examined the current costs nor the future predicted costs if government subsidised dispensing fees. Design and Methods. A system dynamics model,which simulated the flow of patients into and out of methadone maintenance treatment,was developed. Costs were imputed from existing research data. The approach enabled simulation of possible behavioural responses to a fee subsidy (such as higher retention) and new estimates of costs were derived under such scenarios. Results. Current modelled costs (AUS$11.73m per month) were largely borne by state/territory government (43%), with patients bearing one-third (33%) of the total costs and the Commonwealth one-quarter (24%). Assuming no behavioural changes associated with fee subsidies, the cost of subsidising the dispensing fees of Australian methadone patients would be $3.9m per month. If retention were improved as a result of fee subsidy, treatment numbers would increase and the model estimates an additional cost of $0.8m per month. If this was coupled with greater numbers entering treatment, the costs would increase by a further $0.4m per month. In total, full fee subsidy with modelled behavioural changes would increase per annum government expenditure by $81.8m to $175.8m. Discussion and Conclusions. If government provided dispensing fee relief for methadone maintenance patients, it would be a costly exercise. However, these additional costs are offset by the social and health gains achieved from the methadone maintenance program. [Chalmers J, Ritter A. Subsidising patient dispensing fees:The cost of injecting equity into the opioid pharmacotherapy maintenance system.

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Drug and Alcohol Review

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31

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7

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Causes and Prevention of Crime

Medical and Health Sciences

Studies in Human Society

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences

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