Background: In Denmark, a tax-based universal healthcare setting, drug reimbursement for terminal illness (DRTI) should be equally accessible for all terminally ill patients. Examining DRTI status by regions provides new knowledge on inequality in palliative care provision and associated factors. This study aims to investigate geographical variation in DRTI among terminally ill cancer patients.
Methods: We linked socioeconomic and medical data from 135 819 Danish cancer decedents in the period 2007-15 to regional healthcare characteristics. We analyzed associations between region of residence and DRTI. Prevalence ratios (PR) for DRTI were estimated using generalized linear models adjusted for patient factors (age, gender, comorbidity and socioeconomic profile) and multilevel models adjusted for both patient factors and regional healthcare capacity (patients per general practitioner, numbers of hospital and hospice beds).
Results: DRTI allocation differed substantially across Danish regions. Healthcare capacity was associated with DRTI with a higher probability of DRTI among patients living in regions with high compared with low hospice bed supply (PR 1.13, 95% CI 1.10-1.17). Also, the fully adjusted PR of DRTI was 0.94 (95% CI 0.91-0.96) when comparing high with low number of hospital beds. When controlled for both patient and regional healthcare characteristics, the PR for DRTI was 1.17 (95% CI 1.14-1.21) for patients living in the Central Denmark Region compared with the Capital Region.
Conclusion: DRTI status varied across regions in Denmark. The variation was associated with the distribution of healthcare resources. These findings highlight difficulties in ensuring equal access to palliative care even in a universal healthcare system.
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association. All rights reserved.