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Accounting For The Increase In NSAID Expenditure: Substitution Or Leakage?

Garry R Barton, Anthony J Avery, David K Whynes

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Abstract Background National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance stated that a new form of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) (selective COX-2 inhibitors) should only be an option for arthritis patients at high risk of a gastro-intestinal (GI) event. Total expenditure on NSAIDs has risen by 57% over five years, to £247 million in 2004. We assess whether this expenditure increase can be accounted for by substitution – an increased prescribing of two (more expensive) selective COX-2 inhibitors (celecoxib and rofecoxib) and a simultaneous equivalent reduction in the prescribing volume of three (cheaper) older NSAIDs (diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen). Methods Quarterly prescription data was collated from January 1999 to September 2004. Over this period, the level of correlation between the total prescribing volumes for i) celecoxib and rofecoxib, and ii) diclofenac, ibuprofen, and naproxen were compared, the change in total expenditure on the five NSAIDs was also estimated. The latter was apportioned into that which was estimated to have arisen due to i) substitution, and ii) increased NSAID prescription volume. Results Total prescription volumes for the two NSAID groups were negatively correlated (r = -0.97, p < 0.001). In the last quarter there were 1.23 million prescriptions for celecoxib and rofecoxib, and 0.46 million fewer prescriptions for naproxen, diclofenac, and ibuprofen (than in the first quarter, when celecoxib and rofecoxib were not prescribed). Total expenditure for the five NSAIDs was £32.7 million higher in the last quarter, than the first, £12.2 million of which was estimated to be due to substitution, and £20.4 million due to increased volume. Conclusion The introduction of celecoxib and rofecoxib was associated with a reduction in the prescription volume for naproxen, diclofenac, and ibuprofen. However, overall quarterly prescription volume for these five NSAIDs increased by 0.76 million, and we estimate that quarterly expenditure increased by £20.4 million more than would have been expected if overall NSAID volume had remained constant. This suggests that the prescription of both celecoxib and rofecoxib may have 'leaked' to population groups who would not previously have received an older NSAID.