ABSTRACT: As pharmaceutical expenditure continues to rise, third-party payers in most high-income countries have increasingly shifted the burden of payment for prescription drugs to patients. A large body of literature has examined the relationship between prescription charges and outcomes such as expenditure, use, and health, but few reviews explicitly link cost sharing for prescription drugs to efficiency and equity. This article reviews 173 studies from 15 high-income countries and discusses their implications for important issues sometimes ignored in the literature; in particular, the extent to which prescription charges contain health care costs and enhance efficiency without lowering equity of access to care.
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