ISSN : 2146-3123
E-ISSN : 2146-3131

Criteria for Drug Reimbursement Decision-Making: An Emerging Public Health Challenge in Bulgaria
Georgi Iskrov 1, Rumen Stefanov 1
1Department of Social Medicine and Public Health, Medical University of Plovdiv Faculty of Public Health, Plovdiv, Bulgaria
DOI : 10.5152/balkanmedj.2015.15185
Pages : 27-35


Background: During times of fiscal austerity, means of reimbursement decision-making are of particular interest for public health theory and practice. Introduction of advanced health technologies, growing health expenditures and increased public scrutiny over drug reimbursement decisions have pushed governments to consider mechanisms that promote the use of effective health technologies, while constraining costs.

Aims: The study’s aim was to explore the current rationale of the drug reimbursement decision-making framework in Bulgaria. Our pilot research focused on one particular component of this process – the criteria used – because of the critical role that criteria are known to have in setting budgets and priorities in the field of public health. The analysis pursued two objectives: to identify important criteria relevant to drug reimbursement decision-making and to unveil relationships between theory and practice.

Study Design: Cross-sectional study.

Methods: The study was realized through a closed-ended survey on reimbursement criteria among four major public health stakeholders – medical professionals, patients, health authorities, and industry. Empirical outcomes were then cross-compared with the theoretical framework, as defined by current Bulgarian public health legislation. Analysis outlined what is done and what needs to be done in the field of public health reimbursement decision-making.

Results: Bulgarian public health stakeholders agreed on 15 criteria to form a tentative optimal framework for drug reimbursement decision-making. The most apparent gap between the empirically found preferences and the official legislation is the lack of consideration for the strength of evidence in reimbursement decisions.

Conclusion: Bulgarian policy makers need to address specific gaps, such as formal consideration for strength of evidence, explicit role of efficiency criteria, and means to effectively empower patient and citizen involvement in public health decision-making. Drug reimbursement criteria have to be integrated into legitimate public health decision support tools that ensure the achievement of national public health objectives. These recommendations could be expanded to all Eastern European countries who share common public health problems.

Keywords : Bulgaria, decision-making, decision support models, health technology assessment, reimbursement, reimbursement criteria

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