Our first empirical paper has been published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, in collaboration with colleagues from OpenPrescribing at the University of Oxford. We harness publicly available data from England and data requested from the HSE in Ireland to compare the impact of two policy interventions.
In 2017, two distinct interventions were implemented in Ireland and England to reduce prescribing of lidocaine medicated plasters. In Ireland, restrictions on reimbursement were introduced through implementation of an application system for reimbursement. In England, updated guidance on items which should not be routinely prescribed in primary care, including lidocaine plasters, was published. This study aims to compare how the interventions impacted prescribing of lidocaine plasters in these countries.
We conducted an interrupted time-series study using general practice data. For Ireland, monthly dispensing data (2015–2019) from the means-tested General Medical Services (GMS) scheme was used. For England, data covered all patients. Outcomes were the rate of dispensings, quantity and costs of lidocaine plasters, and we modelled level and trend changes from the first full month of the policy/guidance change.
Ireland had higher rates of lidocaine dispensings compared to England throughout the study period; this was 15.22/1000 population immediately pre-intervention, and there was equivalent to a 97.2% immediate reduction following the intervention. In England, the immediate pre-intervention dispensing rate was 0.36/1000, with an immediate reduction of 0.0251/1000 (a 5.8% decrease), followed by a small but significant decrease in the monthly trend relative to the pre-intervention trend of 0.0057 per month.
Among two different interventions aiming to decrease low-value lidocaine plaster prescribing, there was a substantially larger impact in Ireland of reimbursement restriction compared to issuing guidance in England. However, this is in the context of much higher baseline rates of use in Ireland compared to England.