Prescribing generic topical steroids for seniors could offset rising costs, study says

Physician decision support could help elderly patients choose more affordable generic topical steroids to offset rising costs in Medicare and out-of-pocket spending, researchers say.
By Amy Wallace  |  April 28, 2017 at 4:38 PM
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April 28 (UPI) -- Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital report in a new study that they found a sharp increase in Medicare Part D and out-of-pocket spending for elderly patients on topical steroids.

The study was a retrospective, cost analysis of the Medicare Part D Prescriber Public Use File showing annual drug use and spending on both generic and brand name drugs from 2011 to 2015 by Medicare Part D participants who filled prescriptions for topical steroids.

Researchers found Medicare Part D expenditures on topical steroids from 2011 to 2015 were approximately $2.3 billion and $333.7 million of which was out-of-pocket spending for patients.

There was a 37 percent increase in the total number of prescriptions between 2011 and 2015, however, annual spending for Medicare increased 226.5 percent from $237.6 million to $775.9 million and out-of-pocket spending by patients increased 145.9 percent from $41.4 million to $101.8 million in the same time period.

Researchers found the potential healthcare savings and out-of-pocket savings to patients from using alternative, cheaper topical steroids was $944.8 million for Medicare and $66.6 million out-of-pocket over the study period.

"The increasing costs of generic steroids have led to massive increases in Medicare spending and increased out-of-pocket costs for our patients who are over 65," Dr. Arash Mostaghimi, director of dermatology inpatient service at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a press release. "As physicians, we have prescription habits, but our research shows we need to identify cheaper options for patients, especially those who are older, on Medicare and have fixed incomes."

The study was published in JAMA Dermatology.

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