Brand-Name Drugs Pushing Up US Medicare Costs: Survey

Lynne Taylor | PharmaTimes | June 12, 2013

People with diabetes who are enrolled in the US federal Medicare health programme are two to three times more likely to use "expensive" brand-name drugs than diabetes patients who are treated within the Veterans Administration (VA) Healthcare System, new research shows.

Spending on Medicare's prescription drug benefit, known as Part D, would have been an estimated $1.4 billion less in 2008 if its brand-name and generic drug use had matched that of the VA for the medications studied, according to the researchers, from the University of Pittsburgh, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and Dartmouth College. Their report, the first large-scale comparison of prescription drug use between Medicare Part D and the VA, will be published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week.
"Our study shows that we can make a big dent in Medicare spending simply by changing the kinds of medications people are using - and physicians are prescribing - without worrying about whether the government should or should not negotiate drug prices," commented lead author Walid Gellad, an assistant professor in the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health's Department of Health Policy and Management and Pitt's School of Medicine.