August 17, 2011
Reducing Drug Funding To Medicare Patients Will Lead Many To Stop Taking Their Medications
The lack of financial assistance to cover the cost of drugs to Medicare beneficiaries (the US government's health insurance program for people aged 65 or over, which currently covers 50 million US citizens) could result in an additional 18,000 patients discontinuing one or more prescriptions for essential drugs a year"”a 100% increase"”and others to not take their required medications regularly.
These findings, from a study led by Jennifer Polinski from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, USA, and published in this week's PLoS Medicine, also show that although the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services advised patients to consider switching to generic or low-cost drugs, in reality, lack of financial assistance resulted in a decrease in drug switching.
Although this study did not directly investigate the effect of the coverage gap on patient outcomes, these findings suggest that this blunt cost-containment approach could adversely affect health outcomes through their negative effects on medication use. The authors say: "Blunt cost-containment features such as the coverage gap have an adverse impact on drug utilization that may conceivably affect health outcomes."
They continue: "In contrast to blunt cost-sharing approaches such as the coverage gap feature, more nuanced, clinically informed insurance strategies that specifically promote the use of drugs with high benefit and low cost may hold the most promise for governments and insurers seeking to improve the health of their citizens while reigning in drug costs."
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