Objective The aim of this study is to examine the factors driving the demand for drugs in Spain, focusing on the existence of disparities in pharmaceutical consumption between the Spanish and the foreign population. Methods Our analysis is based on a multilevel multinomial probit model that compares three consumption options (no consumption, prescribed consumption and self-medicated consumption) on the five most consumed drugs in Spain. Data is taken from the adult sample of the 2006 Spanish National Health Survey, including 29,478 individuals over 15 years old. Results Overall, the findings show a lower consumption of medicines by some immigrants categories relative to Spaniards. In addition, the results indicate that the consumption of medicines is mainly related to variables associated to the specific cost sharing structure in Spain, such as health limitations and retirement status. Other variables found to explain the demand for drugs were: private health insurance, age, sex, alcohol and cigarette consumption and drug class. Conclusion Further understanding of the reasons for the observed differences in drug consumption on the basis of country of birth would allow the health system to design more effective health policies aimed at ensuring equality of access to health resources to all population groups
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