Friday, 7 May 2010

Denmark - How is the Danish government attempting to reduce healthcare expenditure?

The government is increasing efficiency within the healthcare system, while pharmaceutical prices have been subject to price freezes and caps.

The Danish government is seeking to minimise costs across the healthcare system. The largely successful attempt to convert inpatient operations to outpatient ones has saved both time and money, and is one way in which the Danish hospital service is becoming more efficient. In addition, the local government reform has placed a greater emphasis on the responsibility of the municipalities to provide rehabilitation and nursing home care. This is reinforced by the recent announcement that the Health Minister may raise hospital charges for those patients who are in hospital unnecessarily, and could have been discharged with other appropriate care, to encourage the municipalities to work to get patients discharged from hospital faster. Also, the municipalities are in charge of health promotion and preventative care, and their contribution to the cost of healthcare provides an incentive to do this effectively. The strong growth in hospital prescribing suggests an increase in new therapies being utilised there, while the modest growth in the primary sector is indicative of a steady consumption of pharmaceuticals in general.

Meanwhile, the increasing pharmaceutical expenditure has led to price freezes and caps in recent years. A price ceiling, which has fixed pharmaceutical prices at the level they were in 2006, has been extended to remain in place until the end of 2011. This extension is a sign of the government’s determination to keep the price of pharmaceuticals down, and so this form of price restriction is likely to continue beyond 2011. However, despite the positive results from cost containment measures, efforts to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals have proved unsuccessful. The savings made have been more than counterbalanced by the wider use of new and expensive pharmaceuticals, which are required to ensure the most effective treatment. This is especially true in areas such as hypertension, high cholesterol and so on, where many new therapies have become available recently.

Further reading - An in-depth analysis of the Danish pharmaceutical market is available from Espicom: The Pharmaceutical Market: Denmark (published April 2010)

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