BACKGROUND: In April/2009, the UK National Health Service initiated four Better Care Better Value (BCBV) prescribing indicators, one of which encouraged the prescribing of cheaper angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) instead of expensive angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs), with 80 % ACEIs/20 % ARBs as a proposed, and achievable target. The policy was intended to save costs without affecting patient outcomes. However, little is known about the actual impact of the BCBV indicator on ACEIs/ARBs utilisation and cost-savings. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the impact of BCBV policy on ACEIs/ARBs utilisation and cost-savings, including exploration of regional variations of the policy's impact.
METHODS: This cross-sectional study used data from the UK Clinical Practice Research Datalink. Segmented time-series analysis was applied to monthly ACEIs prescription proportion, adjusted number of ACEIs/ARBs prescriptions and costs.
RESULTS: Overall, the proportion of ACEIs prescription decreased during the study period from 71.2% in April/2006 to 70.7% in March/2012, with a small but a statistically significant pre-policy reduction in its monthly trend of 0.02% (p < 0.001). Instantly after its initiation, the policy was associated with a sudden reduction in the proportion of ACEIs prescription; however, it resulted in a statistically significant increase in the post-policy monthly trend of ACEIs prescription proportion of 0.013% (p < 0.001), resulting in an overall post-policy slope of -0.007%. Despite this post-policy induced increment, the policy failed to achieve the 80% target, which resulted in missing a potential cost-saving opportunity. The pre-policy trend of the adjusted number of ACEIs/ARBs prescriptions was increasing; however, their trends declined after the policy implementation. The policy affected neither total ACEIs/ARBs cost nor individual ACEIs or ARBs costs.
CONCLUSIONS: ACEIs/ARBs utilisation was not affected by the BCBV policy. The small increase in post-policy ACEIs prescription proportion was not associated with any savings. This study represents a case study of a failed or ineffective policy and thus provides key learning lessons for other healthcare authorities. Given the existing opportunity of potential cost-savings from achieving the 80 % target, specific measures would be needed to enhance the policy implementation and uptake; however, this must be balanced against other cost-saving policies in other high-priority areas.