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1.  Effect of the Low Risk Ankle Rule on the frequency of radiography in children with ankle injuries 
The Low Risk Ankle Rule is a validated clinical decision rule that has the potential to safely reduce radiography in children with acute ankle injuries. We performed a phased implementation of the Low Risk Ankle Rule and evaluated its effectiveness in reducing the frequency of radiography in children with ankle injuries.
Six Canadian emergency departments participated in the study from Jan. 1, 2009, to Aug. 31, 2011. At the 3 intervention sites, there were 3 consecutive 26-week phases. In phase 1, no interventions were implemented. In phase 2, we activated strategies to implement the ankle rule, including physician education, reminders and a computerized decision support system. In phase 3, we included only the decision support system. No interventions were introduced at the 3 pair-matched control sites. We examined the management of ankle injuries among children aged 3–16 years. The primary outcome was the proportion of children undergoing radiography.
We enrolled 2151 children with ankle injuries, 1055 at intervention and 1096 at control hospitals. During phase 1, the baseline frequency of pediatric ankle radiography at intervention and control sites was 96.5% and 90.2%, respectively. During phase 2, the frequency of ankle radiography decreased significantly at intervention sites relative to control sites (between-group difference −21.9% [95% confidence interval [CI] −28.6% to −15.2%]), without significant differences in patient or physician satisfaction. All effects were sustained in phase 3. The sensitivity of the Low Risk Ankle Rule during implementation was 100% (95% CI 85.4% to 100%), and the specificity was 53.1% (95% CI 48.1% to 58.1%).
Implementation of the Low Risk Ankle Rule in several different emergency department settings reduced the rate of pediatric ankle radiography significantly and safely, without an accompanying change in physician or patient satisfaction. Trial registration:, no. NCT00785876.
PMCID: PMC3796622  PMID: 23939215
4.  Economic instruments for obesity prevention: results of a scoping review and modified delphi survey 
Comprehensive, multi-level approaches are required to address obesity. One important target for intervention is the economic domain. The purpose of this study was to synthesize existing evidence regarding the impact of economic policies targeting obesity and its causal behaviours (diet, physical activity), and to make specific recommendations for the Canadian context.
Arksey and O'Malley's (2005) methodological framework for conducting scoping reviews was adopted for this study and this consisted of two phases: 1) a structured literature search and review, and 2) consultation with experts in the research field through a Delphi survey and an in-person expert panel meeting in April 2010.
Two key findings from the scoping review included 1) consistent evidence that weight outcomes are responsive to food and beverage prices. The debate on the use of food taxes and subsidies to address obesity should now shift to how best to address practical issues in designing such policies; and 2) very few studies have examined the impact of economic instruments to promote physical activity and clear policy recommendations cannot be made at this time. Delphi survey findings emphasised the relatively modest impact any specific economic instrument would have on obesity independently. Based on empirical evidence and expert opinion, three recommendations were supported. First, to create and implement an effective health filter to review new and current agricultural polices to reduce the possibility that such policies have a deleterious impact on population rates of obesity. Second, to implement a caloric sweetened beverage tax. Third, to examine how to implement fruit and vegetable subsidies targeted at children and low income households.
In terms of economic interventions, shifting from empirical evidence to policy recommendation remains challenging. Overall, the evidence is not sufficiently strong to provide clear policy direction. Additionally, the nature of the experiments needed to provide definitive evidence supporting certain policy directions is likely to be complex and potentially unfeasible. However, these are not reasons to take no action. It is likely that policies need to be implemented in the face of an incomplete evidence base.
PMCID: PMC3207922  PMID: 21978599
5.  Equity in dental care among Canadian households 
Changes in third party financing, whether public or private, are linked to a household's ability to access dental care. By removing costs at point of purchase, changes in financing influence the need to reach into one's pocket, thus facilitating or limiting access. This study asks: How have historical changes in dental care financing influenced household out-of-pocket expenditures for dental care in Canada?
This is a mixed methods study, comprised of an historical review of Canada's dental care market and an econometric analysis of household out-of-pocket expenditures for dental care.
We demonstrate that changes in financing have important implications for out-of-pocket expenditures: with more financing come drops in the amount a household has to spend, and with less financing come increases. Low- and middle-income households appear to be most sensitive to changes in financing.
Alleviating the price barrier to care is a fundamental part of improving equity in dental care in Canada. How people have historically spent money on dental care highlights important gaps in Canadian dental care policy.
PMCID: PMC3097153  PMID: 21496297
6.  Financial burden of household out-of-pocket expenditures for prescription drugs: Cross-sectional analysis based on national survey data 
Open Medicine  2011;5(1):e1-e9.
Commentaries on the adequacy of insurance coverage for prescription drugs available to Canadians have emphasized differences in the coverage provided by different provincial governments. Less is known about the actual financial burden of prescription drug spending and how this burden varies by province of residence, affluence and source of primary drug coverage.
We used data from a nationally representative household expenditure survey to analyze the financial burden of prescription drugs. We focused on the drug budget share (defined as the share of the household budget spent on prescription drugs), considering how it varied by province, total household budget and likely primary source of drug insurance coverage (i.e., provincial government plan for senior citizens, social assistance plan or private coverage). We examined both “typical” households (at the median of the distribution of the drug budget share) and households with relatively large shares (in the top 5%). Finally, we estimated the percentage of households with catastrophic drug expenditures (defined as a drug budget share of 10% or more) and the average catastrophic drug expenditures.
Senior, social assistance and general population households accounted for 21.1%, 8.9% and 69.9% of the sample of 14 430 respondents to the 2006 Survey of Household Spending, respectively. The median drug budget share in Canada was 1.1% for senior households (range 0.4% [Ontario] to 3.6% [Saskatchewan]) and 0.1% for both social assistance households and general population households, with little appreciable variation across provinces for these latter 2 categories. The 95th percentile drug budget share in Canada was 7.4% for senior households (range 3.5% [Ontario] to 12.7% [Saskatchewan]), 5.4% for social assistance households (range 2.3% [British Columbia] to 13.0% [Prince Edward Island]) and 2.6% for general population households (range 2.1% [Ontario] to 5.4% [Prince Edward Island]). The interprovincial range of the 95th percentile drug budget share was 10.7 percentage points for social assistance households, 9.2 percentage points for senior households and 3.3 percentage points for general population households.
For most households, the financial burden of prescription drug expenditures appeared to be relatively small, with little interprovincial variation. However, a small number of households incurred catastrophic drug costs. These households were concentrated in the groups that traditionally benefit from provincial government drug plans. It is likely that some households did not purchase needed prescription drugs because of the expense, so our estimates of the financial burden of catastrophic prescription drug expenditures therefore represent a lower bound.
PMCID: PMC3205811  PMID: 22046212
7.  Response to Pazderka and Schroeder 
Healthcare Policy  2007;2(3):95-96.
PMCID: PMC2585446  PMID: 19305723
8.  The Effect of Pharmaceutical Patent Term Length on Research and Development and Drug Expenditures in Canada 
Healthcare Policy  2007;2(3):63-84.
While pharmaceutical patent terms have increased in Canada, increases in patented drug spending have been mitigated by price controls and retrenchment of public prescription drug subsidy programs. We estimate the net effects of these offsetting policies on domestic pharmaceutical R&D expenditures and also provide an upper-bound estimate on the effects of these policies on Canadian pharmaceutical spending over the period 1988–2002. We estimate that R&D spending increased by $4.4 billion (1997 dollars). Drug spending increased by $3.9 billion at most and, quite likely, by much less. Cutbacks to public drug subsidies and the introduction of price controls likely mitigated drug spending growth. In cost–benefit terms, we suspect that the patent extension policies have been beneficial to Canada.
PMCID: PMC2585454  PMID: 19305720
9.  The Impact of Reference Pricing of Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Agents on the Use and Costs of Analgesic Drugs 
Health Services Research  2005;40(5 Pt 1):1297-1317.
To estimate the effect of reference pricing (RP) of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) on drug subsidy program and beneficiary expenditures on analgesic drugs.
Data Sources/Study Setting
Monthly claims data from Pharmacare, the public drug subsidy program for seniors in British Columbia, Canada, over the period of February 1993 to June 2001.
Study Design
RP limits drug plan reimbursement of interchangeable medicines to a reference price, which is typically equal to the price of the lowest cost interchangeable drug; any cost above that is borne by the patient. Pharmacare introduced two different forms of RP to the NSAIDs, Type 1 in April 1994 and Type 2 in November 1995. Under Type 1 RP, generic and brand versions of the same NSAID are considered interchangeable, whereas under Type 2 RP different NSAIDs are considered interchangeable. We extrapolated average reimbursement per day of NSAID therapy over the months before RP to estimate what expenditures would have been without the policies. These counterfactual predictions were compared with actual values to estimate the impact of the policies; the estimated impacts on reimbursement rates were multiplied by the postpolicy volume of NSAIDS dispensed, which appeared unaffected by the policies, to estimate expenditure changes.
Principal Findings
After Type 2 RP, program expenditures declined by $22.7 million (CAN), or $4 million (CAN), annually cutting expenditure by about half. Most savings accrued from the substitution of low-cost NSAIDs for more costly alternatives. About 20 percent of savings represented expenditures by seniors who elected to pay for partially reimbursed drugs. Type 1 RP produced one-quarter the savings of type 2 RP.
Type 2 RP of NSAIDs achieved its goal of reducing drug expenditures and was more effective than Type 1 RP. The effects of RP on patient health and associated health care costs remain to be investigated.
PMCID: PMC1361214  PMID: 16174135
Reference pricing; generic substitution; prescription drugs; drug cost containment; NSAIDs
10.  Becoming the best mom that I can: women's experiences of managing depression during pregnancy – a qualitative study 
BMC Women's Health  2007;7:13.
The purpose of this constructivist grounded theory study was to develop a theoretical model that explains women's processes of managing diagnosed depression when pregnant.
We explored the experiences of 19 women in Ontario who were diagnosed with depression during their pregnancy.
The model that emerged from the analysis was becoming the best mom that I can. Becoming the best mom that I can explains the complex process of the women's journey as they travel from the depths of despair, where the depression is perceived to threaten their pregnancy and their ability to care for the coming baby, to arrive at knowing the self and being in a better place. In order to reground the self and regain control of their lives, the women had to recognize the problem, overcome shame and embarrassment, identify an understanding healthcare provider, and consider the consequences of the depression and its management. When confronting and confining the threat of depression, the women employed strategies of overcoming barriers, gaining knowledge, and taking control. As a result of counseling, medication, or a combination of both, women felt that they had arrived at a better place.
For many women, the idea that depression could occur during pregnancy was antithetical to their vision of the pregnant self. The challenge for a pregnant woman who is diagnosed with depression, is that effective care for her may jeopardize her baby's future health. This provides a dilemma for about-to-be parents and their healthcare providers. Improved awareness of depression during pregnancy on the part of healthcare professionals is needed to improve the women's understanding of this disorder and their ability to recognize and seek help with depression should it occur during the prenatal period. Further qualitative research is needed to determine the specific aspects that need to be addressed in such classes.
PMCID: PMC2048943  PMID: 17848199
11.  Can Current Electronic Systems Meet Drug Safety and Effectiveness Requirements? 
Every health policy jurisdiction is endeavoring to enhance its ability to evaluate drug effectiveness, safety and cost in the real world (pharmacosurveillance).
A nominal group consensus conference of stakeholders finalized data items deemed necessary for pharmacosurveillance. Large administrative datasets (LADs), electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic patient registries (PRs), were investigated as sources of this information and for their vulnerability to methodologic bias. Health data privacy legislation and research guidelines were systematically reviewed for their constraint to linked data resource analyses.
More than 129 data items were strongly recommended for routine pharmacosurveillance. LADs had very complete information, but restricted to a small number of required data items. EHRs, especially with e-pharmacy links, offer by far the most complete set of health information domains but data entry completeness is highly variable. Adjustment methods for channeling bias are inadequate to mimic randomized trials. Anonymized, linked data held within a secure academic research environment, poses the least privacy concerns.
Notwithstanding major technical, methodologic and privacy challenges, individual-level linkage of health data resources poses the best option for pharmacosurveillance today. In future, drug regulators and reimbursement agencies should consider mandatory post-marketing randomized trials.
PMCID: PMC1560699  PMID: 16779057
13.  Impact of reference-based pricing for histamine-2 receptor antagonists and restricted access for proton pump inhibitors in British Columbia 
Two programs to reduce expenditures for common gastrointestinal drugs were introduced simultaneously by British Columbia (BC) Pharmacare in 1995. Reference-based pricing restricted reimbursement for all histamine-2 receptor antagonists (H2RAs) to the cost of the least expensive H2RA available, generic cimetidine. Special authority restricted reimbursement for proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to patients who met certain eligibility criteria. We evaluated the effect of reference-based pricing for H2RAs and special authority for PPIs on dispensing and reimbursement for senior citizen beneficiaries of BC Pharmacare.
Itemized monthly claims data for upper gastrointestinal drugs were obtained from BC Pharmacare for all beneficiaries 65 years of age or older. Periods before and after implementation of reference-based pricing and special authority were compared with respect to defined daily doses dispensed per 100 000 beneficiaries, BC Pharmacare reimbursement per 100 000 beneficiaries, BC Pharmacare reimbursement per defined daily dose and beneficiary contributions per defined daily dose. We used regression models to project forward trends in expenditures observed before implementation of the new policies and hence to estimate accrued cost savings.
Before reference-based pricing and special authority, the numbers of defined daily doses that were dispensed and total BC Pharmacare reimbursements for H2RAs appeared to be declining gradually, whereas those for PPIs were rising. With reference-based pricing, the monthly defined daily dose of cimetidine dispensed increased more than 4-fold, to 116 257 per 100 000 beneficiaries, while those of other restricted H2RAs decreased by more than half, to 50 927 per 100 000 beneficiaries. Special authority immediately reduced the dispensed volumes of PPIs by one-fourth, but growth in volume then appeared to resume at its previous rate. The estimated annualized cost savings achieved by reference-based pricing and special authority were $1.8 million to $3.2 million for H2RAs (depending on the estimation method used) and $5.5 million for PPIs. However, beneficiary contributions for H2RAs increased from negligible amounts to approximately 16% of total drug expenditures.
Reference-based pricing and special authority appear to have been successful in altering prescribing habits and reducing provincial expenditures for upper gastrointestinal drugs, but they have increased the financial burden on senior citizen beneficiaries.
PMCID: PMC116151  PMID: 12126319
14.  Impact of reference-based pricing of nitrates on the use and costs of anti-anginal drugs 
Reference-based pricing limits reimbursement for a group of drugs that are deemed therapeutically equivalent to the cost of the lowest-priced product within that group. We estimated the effect of reference-based pricing of nitrate drugs used for long-term prophylaxis on prescribing of and expenditures on nitrates and other anti-anginal drugs dispensed to senior citizens in British Columbia.
We assessed trends in the monthly volume of prescriptions of anti- anginal drugs and the associated drug ingredient cost paid by the province's publicly funded drug subsidy program, Pharmacare, and by the patients themselves for the period April 1994 to May 1999. Trends in monthly rates of nitrate expenditures per 100 000 senior citizens before the introduction of reference-based pricing were extrapolated to infer what expenditures would have been without the policy.
During the 31/2 years after reference-based pricing was introduced, Pharmacare expenditures on nitrates prescribed to senior citizens declined by $14.9 million (95% confidence interval $10.7 to $19.1 million). Most of these savings were due to the lower prices that Pharmacare paid for sustained-release nitroglycerin tablets and the nitroglycerin patch, which were the 2 most frequently prescribed nitrates before the introduction of reference-based pricing; $1.2 million (8%) of the savings represented expenditures by senior citizens who purchased drugs that were only partially reimbursed. There were no compensatory increases in expenditures for other anti-anginal drugs. Use of sublingual nitroglycerin — a marker for deteriorating health in patients with angina — did not increase after the introduction of reference-based pricing. The nitroglycerin patch is now the most frequently prescribed nitrate, owing to the fact that Pharmacare resumed the provision of full subsidies for the drug after its manufacturers voluntarily reduced retail prices.
Evidence to date suggests that reference-based pricing of nitrates has achieved its primary goal of reducing drug expenditures. The effects of this policy on patient health, associated health care costs and administrative costs remain to be investigated.
PMCID: PMC81535  PMID: 11699696

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