Pricey Drugs May Not Mean Better Care11/03/10
WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Higher levels of drug
spending don't necessarily translate into better quality care for
Medicare patients, a new study has found.
The analysis of the U.S. Healthcare Effectiveness Data and
Information Set revealed wide variation across the United States in
both Medicare drug spending and the rate of inappropriate
prescriptions for the elderly, said the researchers at the
University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
For example, high-risk drugs were prescribed to 44 percent of
Medicare patients in Alexandria, La., compared with only 11 percent
in the Bronx, N.Y.
The researchers also found that regions where Medicare patients
were more likely to get prescriptions for high-risk or potentially
harmful drugs did not necessarily spend more on drugs overall than
regions with lower use of high-risk or potentially harmful
In addition, the likelihood that Medicare patients would be
prescribed high-risk or potentially harmful drugs was also higher
in regions where non-drug medical spending was highest.
The findings contradict "the idea that high spending leads to
better prescription practices," lead investigator Yuting Zhang, an
assistant professor of health economics, said in a University of
Pittsburgh news release.
"Higher spending can be justified if it's for drugs that are necessary and appropriate and improve patients' health," she said in the news release. "But if certain drugs are being incorrectly prescribed to seniors, then that can lead to complications and expensive interventions, such as hospitalization. As we try to reform health care to get costs under control, we need a better understanding of how spending differs regionally to make a positive impact."
The study was published in the Nov. 3 online edition of the
New England Journal of Medicine.
The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers advice about
safe use of medicines.
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