Drug spending data released by Medicare

A lot of seniors in the US tend to suffer from the problem of diabetes, a problem which is quite costly. However in Pennsylvania, according to prescription drug data released by Medicare, asthma and respiratory problems are more costly. Advair inhalers which help in treating severe obstructive pulmonary disease symptoms as well as asthma was found to be filled 424,000 times by patients of Medicare in 2013 which amounts of $141.34 million in terms of federal spending. According to federal records, this is the most amount of money spent on any brand named prescription.
The runner up in terms of gross spending in the state was Lantus and the sister drug of Lantus SoloStar which accounted for $131.21 million followed by Nexium which is meant for heartburn which accounted for $117.05 million. Throughout the nation, Lantus topped at the top of the list by Medicare in terms of drugs at $2.68 billion which was followed by Nexium at $2.53 billion, Advair at $2.38 billion and lastly Crestor which is drug meant for cholesterol at $2.22 billion.
These figures of spending suggest the amount of federal government’s subsidy for Part D of Medicare, the share of the expensive of the beneficiary along with any subsidies or even 3rd party insurer expenses which are directed towards the cost of the drug.
The public release of such information indicates the most detailed data related to prescription drugs which have been released by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services since 2006 when Medicare was expanded to provide prescriptions benefits as well. Several of the charts which were published by CMS which is the largest health insurer in the country included data from 36 million patients, 1 million prescribers and physicians and a total drug related spending on Medicare worth $103 billion.
The associate director of the Program on Medicare Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation Juliette Cubanski said that the CMS is moving towards a path of showing more transparency regarding how money is spent and who spends it.
Another question which was addressed is why Advair is amongst the top drug which seniors spend on? One of the reasons was that COPD hospitalization in the state and asthma rates of 65 years and above individuals is higher than what the national average is. Secondly, while Advair lost its US patent protection in 2010, no exact generic alternative is available due to which the price of it has double since then.
Experts however do state that when reading regarding figures on spending, caution should be applied and the same applies to aggregate physician data as well. The numbers however do provide some kind of insight in the drugs which are causing the Medicare Part D cost to rise which has accounted for almost $50 billion in the net federal spending of FY 2013 i.e. 10% of the federal government’s entire Medicare tab.
What is more interesting perhaps is that apart from the figures on gross drug spending is the data which is found regarding doctors who prescribe these drugs as well as the pattern of prescription throughout the variety of medical specialties in the Medicare program. The CMS has again released such information for the very first time.


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