A cohort study of therapeutic prescriptions after the end of phytotherapy drug reimbursement by French Social Security

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The reimbursement of phytotherapy drugs for the treatment of mild anxiety and insomnia ended in March 2006 in France. The aim of this study is to investigate the short-term impact of stopping phytotherapy reimbursement.


We monitored the prescriptions of 27 422 patients who received hypnotic and sedative phytotherapy drug treatment at least once in the 12 months preceding the end of reimbursement and made contact with their prescribing physician at least once in the following 12 months. A control cohort was recruited from patients fulfilling the same inclusion criteria in the 24 months before de-reimbursement and their prescriptions in the following 12 months were monitored. The impact of the end of reimbursement is estimated comparing prescription switches in these cohorts.


Before the end of reimbursement, 7684 (28%) patients being prescribed delisted phytotherapy drugs had the relevant drug marketing authorization approval (DMAA) indications. Co-prescriptions of hypnotic and sedative drugs concerned 40% of patients. Of the 4646 DMAA patients exclusively prescribed phytotherapy, 640 (14%) switched to hypnotic or sedative drugs only after the end of reimbursement, 3266 (70%) stopped all treatments and 740 (16%) carried on with a non-reimbursed phytotherapy prescription. When compared to the control cohort, patients exposed to de-reimbursement were more likely to switch to psychotropic drugs (OR = 1.46).


Ending the reimbursement of common drugs on the basis of insufficient evidence regarding their effectiveness or the low level of severity of their target pathologies should be accompanied by information or advice to prescribing health care actors. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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