Background: We review procurement and pricing transparency practices for pharmaceutical products. We specifically focus on Brazil and examine its approach to increasing pricing transparency, with the aim of determining the level of effectiveness in lower prices using a tool (Banco de Preços em Saúde, BPS) that only reveals purchase prices as compared to other tools (in other countries) that establish a greater degree of price transparency.
Methods: A general report of Preços em Saúde (BPS) and Sistema Integrado de Administração de Serviços Gerais (SIASG) pricing data was created for 25 drugs that met specific criteria. To explore the linear time trend of each of the drugs, separate regression models were fitted for each drug, resulting in a total of 19 models. Each model controlled for the state variable and the interaction between state and time, in order to accommodate expected heterogeneity in the data. Additionally, the models controlled for procurement quantities and the effect they have on the unit price. Secondary analysis using mixed effects models was also carried out to account for the impact that institutions and suppliers may have upon the unit price. Adjusting for these predictor variables (procurement quantities, supplier, purchasing institution) was important to determine the sole effect that time has had on unit prices. A total of 2 x 19 = 38 models were estimated to explore the overall effect of time on changes in unit price. All statistical analyses were performed using the R statistical software, while the linear mixed effects models were fitted using the lme4 R package.
Results: The findings from our analysis suggest that there is no pattern of consistent price decreases within the two Brazilian states during the five-year period for which the prices were analyzed.
Conclusions: While the BPS does allow for an increase in transparency and information on drug purchase prices in Brazil, it has not shown to lead to consistent reductions in drug purchase prices for some of the most widely used medicines. This is indicative of a limited model for addressing the challenges in pharmaceutical procurement and puts into question the value of tools used globally to improve transparency in pharmaceutical pricing.