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New site shows Medicare drug spending trends

December 22, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched an online site this week to publicize the top drug spending in Medicare Parts B and D. The site lists the top 40 drugs under Medicare Part B and the top 40 under Part D in terms of total Medicare spending, volume of use, change in unit price and other high-cost factors.

The Part D data are revealing, both in terms of how much certain drugs cost and how many people are being prescribed them. The database also tracks changes in drug prices over time and how the yearly average beneficiaries paid out of pocket.

More seniors take Crestor more than any other drug on the list: More than 1.7 million Part D beneficiaries take this cholesterol-controlling medication. Predisolone acetate (a corticosteroid for eye inflammation) comes in second, totaling nearly 1,469,000 beneficiaries. More than 1.4 million people take Advair or Nexium, and Spiriva takes the fifth slot at 1.2 million beneficiaries.

The skyrocketing price of certain drugs has garnered a lot of attention lately, and CMS-covered drugs are no exception. Among Part D drugs, Vimovo (used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation) tops the list, with a whopping 545 percent hike in price from 2013 to 2014. Captopril, a high blood pressure treatment, is second with a 329 percent increase. Digoxin, used to treat heart failure and atrial fibrillation, has jumped 298 percent since 2013, while Prednisolone acetate has risen 166 percent and Targretin, a skin cancer treatment, has jumped 123 percent.

Which Part D drug costs beneficiaries the most out of pocket? By far, it’s Sovaldi, a treatment for Hepatitis C, which costs seniors an average of $5,000 out of pocket per year. Tracleer, a drug for pulmonary arterial hypertension, and Targretin are next, costing seniors an average of $4,325 and $4,165 per year, respectively.

“By sharing this information and allowing people to analyze the data, we can increase the knowledge around drug spending and support efforts that are evaluating whether public dollars are being spent most effectively,” acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt said in a blog post about the data.



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