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Clin Ther. 2003 Jan;25(1):273-84.

Physician gender and changes in drug prescribing after the implementation of reference pricing in British Columbia.

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  • 1Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Gender-specific attitudes and communication styles are known to influence both the content and outcome of medical visits. Therefore, gender-specific differences in response to cost containment may also occur.


The purpose of this study was to assess the effect of physician gender on changes in prescribing patterns of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors after the implementation of reference pricing for prescription drugs in British Columbia, Canada.


Reference pricing is a cost-sharing policy by which use of high-priced medication requires out-of-pocket payment of the price difference between the cost-sharing drug and a lower-cost drug within the same class. In British Columbia, reference pricing for ACE inhibitors was introduced on January 1, 1997. Analysis was carried out on linked pharmacy and medical service claims data on 927 female and 2922 male physicians treating 47,680 Pharmacare Plan A enrollees who were aged >-65 years and were prescribed a high-priced ACE inhibitors before the implementation of reference pricing.


Female physicians (24.1% of all physicians) were younger, treated more female patients, had patients with fewer chronic illnesses, and worked more often as general practitioners than did male physicians. The patients of female physicians were more likely to receive a written physician-requested exemption from copayment, according to a multivariate logistic regression analysis (odds ratio [OR], 1.25; 95% CI, 1.04-1.50). Data suggested that patients of female physicians were more likely to stop antihypertensive drug therapy (OR, 1.43; 95% CI, 0.96-2.13); however, this was independent of the new copayment policy.


The results provide empirical evidence that physician gender is associated with slightly different patient management strategies regarding physician-requested exemptions after the start of a new drug cost-sharing policy. However, these differences are unlikely to have meaningful clinical or economic consequences.

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