Open Access Research article

Forecasting drug utilization and expenditure in a metropolitan health region

Björn Wettermark12*, Marie E Persson1, Nils Wilking3, Mats Kalin14, Seher Korkmaz15, Paul Hjemdahl5, Brian Godman26, Max Petzold7, Lars L Gustafsson12 and the Regional Drug Expert Consortium in Stockholm County Council

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Drug Management and Informatics, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm Sweden

2 Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Laboratory Medicine, Karolinska Institutet at Karolinska University Hospital Huddinge, Stockholm Sweden

3 Department of Oncology and Pathology, Karolinska Insitutet, Stockholm, Sweden

4 Department of Infectious diseases, Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Stockholm, Sweden

5 Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet at Karolinska University Hospital Solna, Stockholm, Sweden

6 Mario Negri Institute, Milan, Italy

7 Nordic School of Public Health, Gothenburg, Sweden

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BMC Health Services Research 2010, 10:128  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-10-128

Published: 17 May 2010



New pharmacological therapies are challenging the healthcare systems, and there is an increasing need to assess their therapeutic value in relation to existing alternatives as well as their potential budget impact. Consequently, new models to introduce drugs in healthcare are urgently needed. In the metropolitan health region of Stockholm, Sweden, a model has been developed including early warning (horizon scanning), forecasting of drug utilization and expenditure, critical drug evaluation as well as structured programs for the introduction and follow-up of new drugs. The aim of this paper is to present the forecasting model and the predicted growth in all therapeutic areas in 2010 and 2011.


Linear regression analysis was applied to aggregate sales data on hospital sales and dispensed drugs in ambulatory care, including both reimbursed expenditure and patient co-payment. The linear regression was applied on each pharmacological group based on four observations 2006-2009, and the crude predictions estimated for the coming two years 2010-2011. The crude predictions were then adjusted for factors likely to increase or decrease future utilization and expenditure, such as patent expiries, new drugs to be launched or new guidelines from national bodies or the regional Drug and Therapeutics Committee. The assessment included a close collaboration with clinical, clinical pharmacological and pharmaceutical experts from the regional Drug and Therapeutics Committee.


The annual increase in total expenditure for prescription and hospital drugs was predicted to be 2.0% in 2010 and 4.0% in 2011. Expenditures will increase in most therapeutic areas, but most predominantly for antineoplastic and immune modulating agents as well as drugs for the nervous system, infectious diseases, and blood and blood-forming organs.


The utilisation and expenditure of drugs is difficult to forecast due to uncertainties about the rate of adoption of new medicines and various ongoing healthcare reforms and activities to improve the quality and efficiency of prescribing. Nevertheless, we believe our model will be valuable as an early warning system to start developing guidance for new drugs including systems to monitor their effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness in clinical practice.