Interventions: Targeted therapies have been proven to provide clinical benefits to patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Gefitinib was initially approved and reimbursed as a third-line therapy for patients with advanced NSCLC by the Taiwan National Health Insurance (NHI) in 2004; subsequently it became a second-line therapy (in 2007) and further a first-line therapy (in 2011) for patients with epidermal growth factor receptor mutation-positive advanced NSCLC. Another targeted therapy, erlotinib, was initially approved as a third-line therapy in 2007, and it became a second-line therapy in 2008. Objectives: This study is aimed towards an exploration of the impacts of the Taiwan NHI reimbursement policies (removing reimbursement restrictions) related to accessibility of targeted therapies. Setting: We retrieved 2004-2013 claims data for all patients with lung cancer diagnoses from the NHI Research Database. Design and outcome measures: Using an interrupted time series design and segmented regression, we estimated changes in the monthly prescribing rate by patient number and market shares by cost following each modification of the reimbursement policy for gefitinib and erlotinib for NSCLC treatment. Results: Totally 92 220 patients with NSCLC were identified. The prescribing rate of the targeted therapies increased by 15.58%, decreased by 10.98% and increased by 6.31% following the introduction of gefitinib as a second-line treatment in 2007, erlotinib as a second-line treatment in 2008 and gefitinib as as first line treatment in 2011, respectively. The average time to prescription reduced by 65.84% and 41.59% following coverage of erlotinib by insurance and gefitinib/erlotinib as second-line treatments in 2007-2008 and following gefitinib as the first-line treatment in 2011. Conclusions: The changes in reimbursement policies had a significant impact on the accessibility of targeted therapies for NSCLC treatment. Removing reimbursement restrictions can significantly increase the level and the speed of drug accessibility.
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