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An expert-based mapping of healthcare system strategies to support rational drug prescribing in primary care across 13 European countries

  • Rotar, Alexandru M.1
  • van den Berg, Michael J.1
  • Klazinga, Niek S.1
  • 1 Amsterdam Public Health Research Institute, University of Amsterdam, Meibergdreef 9, Amsterdam, 1105 AZ, Netherlands , Amsterdam (Netherlands)
Published Article
Health Research Policy and Systems
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Sep 15, 2020
DOI: 10.1186/s12961-020-00605-w
Springer Nature


BackgroundIrrational prescribing has received increasing attention among policy-makers to improve drug safety and effectiveness while avoiding economic waste. The policies intended to rationalise prescribing have been grouped by WHO under a taxonomy, classifying them into two types of strategies – (1) targeted approaches (micro level) and (2) system-oriented approaches (macro level). The extent to which countries implement strategies and the existing types is currently unknown. This paper explores the following research question via expert opinions: to what extent have European countries implemented strategies to support rational prescribing (targeted and system oriented) and what are the types implemented?MethodsWe assessed the available information on policies intended to promote rational prescribing. We used the WHO taxonomy to explore our research question as the basis for a standardised questionnaire. The data were collected between August 2018 and April 2019. The questionnaire consisted of questions that solicited the opinion of experts on the implementation of prescribing control mechanisms in primary care in their respective countries. Experts were identified through the literature and relevant networks. The questionnaire was sent to 17 identified country experts from 17 different countries; 15 responded and 13 were used in our analysis. Answers were validated through follow-up correspondence, interviews and presentation at an OECD meeting.ResultsExpert-reported data shows that all 13 countries included in our study have several mechanisms in place for enhancing rational prescribing in primary care. All approaches were reported to have been implemented in at least two countries. We identified two groups of countries, namely a small group of countries (n = 3) with fewer mechanisms in place and a larger group of countries (n = 10) with a large number of strategies with accompanying instruments at both the micro and macro levels.ConclusionsThe data reported by the experts suggests that all 13 countries included in our study have several mechanisms in place for enhancing rational prescribing in primary care on both the micro and macro levels. With respect to the extent of mechanisms being in place, two groups of countries were identified. This initial mapping of strategies forms a basis for more in-depth research to be able to assess the impact of bundles of strategies on system and targeted level on rational drug prescribing in primary care in Europe.

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