Background: Expenditures on prescribed drugs in Canada are now well past those for all services provided by outpatient physicians ($26.9 billion vs. $21.5 billion in 2007). Government has the opportunity to dedicate resources to continuing medical education of physicians, and effective profiling would assist in the allocation of these educational resources.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to evaluate physician prescribing patterns and establish criteria by which various prescribing profiles may be segmented and identified, so as to better target detailing and continuing medical education resources.
Methods: A sample of 925 physicians practicing in Nova Scotia (NS) was characterized by age, sex, rural/urban nature of their practice and specialty. They were subsequently evaluated relative to all prescriptions filled by their patients who were beneficiaries of the NS Department of Health's senior's Pharmacare drug insurance program. The adoption of COX-2 inhibitors (eg, Vioxx) and Celebrex) and their substitution for NS-NSAIDs (non-specific non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, eg, Motrin) from 1999 to 2003 were examined.
Results: This analysis established the profiles of 2 key groups of physicians. The first consisted of those most likely to comprise the early, high volume COX-2-prescribing universe (profiles based on the absolute number of prescriptions written over a given period). These individuals were likely to be older, more experienced, male general practitioners operating in a rural practice. The second group consisted of those most likely to comprise the early, high-relative, COX-2-prescribing universe (prescribing of COX-2s relative to non-selective, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NS-NSAIDs)). These individuals were likely to be younger, less experienced female general practitioners, operating in an urban practice.
Conclusion: This research moves us closer to identifying unique physician segments that account for either the largest volume of prescriptions for new drugs, or the largest relative volume of prescriptions. Use of these physician groups can help continuing medical education providers target specific prescribers with information to assist them in examining and improving their prescribing.
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