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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Repost] Prescription Drug Use Among Medicare Patients Highly Inconsistent

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From the 17 October 2013 Science Daily article

 A new report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project shows that the use of both effective and risky drug therapies by Medicare patients varies widely across U.S. regions, offering further evidence that location is a key determinant in the quality and cost of the medical care that patients receive.

In their first look at prescription drug use, Dartmouth researchers also find that the health status of a region’s Medicare population accounts for less than a third of the variation in total prescription drug use, and that higher spending is not related to higher use of proven drug therapies. The study raises questions about whether regional practice culture explains differences in the quality and quantity of prescription drug use.

“There is no good reason why heart attack victims living in Ogden, Utah, are twice as likely to receive medicine to lower their cholesterol and their risk of another heart attack than those in Abilene, Texas, but this inconsistency reflects the current practice of medicine in the United States,” said Jeffrey C. Munson, M.D., M.S.C.E., lead author and assistant professor at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.

“This report demonstrates how far we still have to go as a nation to make sure people get the care they need when they need it,” said Katherine Hempstead, Ph.D., M.A., senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a longtime funder of the Dartmouth Atlas Project. “Instead of varying widely, patterns of care should be nearly uniform across the country for non- controversial drug therapies with a strong evidence for their use.”

The new report offers an in-depth look at how prescription drugs are used by Medicare beneficiaries in the program’s Part D drug benefit, which had 37 million enrollees in 2012. The report separates the country into 306 regional health care markets and examines variations among them in the quantity and quality of prescription drug use, spending, and use of brand name drugs. To examine the quality of care, the report looks at prescription use in three categories:

  •  Drug therapies proven to be effective for patients who have suffered heart attacks, have diabetes, or have broken a bone;
  •  Discretionary medications, which have less clear benefits, but may be effective for some patients who take them; and
  •  Potentially harmful medications, for which risks generally outweigh benefits. 1

Read the entire article here

The full Dartmouth report may be found here

October 18, 2013 - Posted by | health care | , , ,

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