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Study: $6.7 billion wasted in primary care

  |   Oct. 3, 2011 at 9:25 PM
NEW YORK, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- About $6.7 billion was spent on unnecessary tests or prescribing unnecessary drugs in primary care in 2009, U.S. researchers found.

Dr. Minal Kale, a postdoctoral fellow at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, reviewed findings from a study published in the May issue of Archives of Internal Medicine that identified the five most overused clinical activities in each of three primary care specialties -- pediatrics, internal medicine and family medicine. Kale and colleagues performed a cross-sectional analysis of separate data were pulled from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

The study, published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found more than $6.7 billion was spent in excess healthcare spending in the primary care setting in 2009 -- 86 percent of the excess spending resulted from prescribing of brand-name statins rather than generic versions.

"Our analysis shows astronomical costs associated with prescribing of brand name statins when effective, generic alternatives were available," Kales said in a statement. "Additionally, millions are spent on unnecessary blood work, scans and antibiotic prescriptions."

The remaining wasted spending was attributable to:

-- More than half of complete blood work ordered was not needed.

-- Unnecessary bone density scans in younger women.

-- Unnecessary CT and other scans.

-- Over-prescription of antibiotics.

-- Needless annual echocardiograms, urine testing, pap tests and pediatric cough medicine prescriptions.

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