Active pharmaceutical management strategies of health insurance systems to improve cost-effective use of medicines in low- and middle-income countries: a systematic review of current evidence

Health Policy. 2011 May;100(2-3):134-43. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.10.020. Epub 2010 Dec 24.


Objectives: Health insurance systems have great potential to improve the cost-effective use of medicines by leveraging better provider prescribing, more cost-effective use by consumers, and lower prices from industry. Despite ample evidence from high-income countries, little is known about insurance system strategies targeting medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC). This paper provides a critical review of the literature on these strategies and their impacts in LMIC.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of published peer-reviewed and grey literature and organized the insurance system strategies into four categories: medicines selection, purchasing, contracting and utilization management.

Results: In n=63 reviewed publications we found reasonable evidence supporting the use of insurance as an overall strategy to improve access to pharmaceuticals and outcomes in LMIC. Beyond this, most of the literature focused on provider contracting strategies to influence prescribing. There was very little evidence on medicines selection, purchasing, or utilization management strategies.

Conclusions: There is a paucity of published evidence on the impact of insurance system strategies on improving the use of medicines in LMIC. The existing evidence is questionable since the majority of the published studies utilize weak study designs. This review highlights the need for well-designed studies to build an evidence base on the impact of medicines management strategies deployed by LMIC insurance programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developing Countries*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / classification
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • Insurance, Pharmaceutical Services / economics*