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Implementing accountability for reasonableness – the case of pharmaceutical reimbursement in Sweden



This paper aims to describe the priority-setting procedure for new original pharmaceuticals practiced by the Swedish Pharmaceutical Benefits Board (LFN), to analyse the outcome of the procedure in terms of decisions and the relative importance of ethical principles, and to examine the reactions of stakeholders. All the ‘principally important’ decisions made by the LFN during its first 33 months of operation were analysed. The study is theoretically anchored in the theory of fair and legitimate priority-setting procedures by Daniels and Sabin, and is based on public documents, media articles, and semi-structured interviews. Only nine cases resulted in a rejection of a subsidy by the LFN and 15 in a limited or conditional subsidy. Total rejections rather than limitations gave rise to actions by stakeholders. Primarily, the principle of cost-effectiveness was used when limiting/conditioning or totally rejecting a subsidy. This study suggests that implementing a priority-setting process that fulfils the conditions of accountability for reasonableness can result in a priority-setting process which is generally perceived as fair and legitimate by the major stakeholders and may increase social learning in terms of accepting the necessity of priority setting in health care. The principle of cost-effectiveness increased in importance when the demand for openness and transparency increased.


Corresponding author

*Correspondence to: IHE, The Swedish Institute for Health Economics, Box 2127, SE-220 02 Lund, Sweden. Tel: +46 46 329100; Email:


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Health Economics, Policy and Law
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