Hospitals

Medicare releases huge swath of data on prescription drug costs – spent largely on heart disease, diabetes and GERD

Medicare just released a huge swath of data detailing 2013 prescription drug usage in its Part D program. The data, coming from more than 1 million health care providers, accounts for more than $103 billion in drug costs. It’s reportedly the most detailed list of drug costs the government behemoth’s ever released. The broadly released data […]

Medicare just released a huge swath of data detailing 2013 prescription drug usage in its Part D program. The data, coming from more than 1 million health care providers, accounts for more than $103 billion in drug costs. It’s reportedly the most detailed list of drug costs the government behemoth’s ever released.

The broadly released data can be mined by the general public – for the first time ever – so as to improve transparency of drug costs.

“We know that there are many, many smart minds in this country,” Sean Cavanaugh, a deputy administrator at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said in a conference call. “We are excited to unleash those minds and see what they can find in our data.”

The top ten drugs, by costs, are as follows:

But here the top ten are by utilization. They’re all generics:

It’s interesting to draw conclusions about the Medicare Part D populace based on the drug prevalence and costs. Most everything centers around heart disease, pain, diabetes and heartburn – the standard public health concerns that are so very preventable with diet and exercise.

For instance, lisinopril and simvastatin treat cardiovascular indications like hypertension and high cholesterol; levothyroxine sodium regulates the thyroid. After that come painkillers, GERD treatments and diabetes drugs. The list that shows the most money spent on specific branded meds follow the same trends – Nexium targets heartburn, Crestor’s for cholesterol, Januvia is meant for diabetes – though psych meds like Abilify and Cymbalta do notably make the list.

Medicare also charted the prescriber specialties that had the highest cost of prescriptions:

Given the indications in the first two charts, it comes as little surprise that the bulk of costs come from internal medicine and family practice – though the cost per drug is costlier in neurology and psychiatry.

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