Medicare uses more brand-name drugs than does VA



Among patients with diabetes, use of brand-name drugs was two to three times higher for Medicare than for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2008, according to a new study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

That led to increased costs "at a time when the U.S. government is facing substantial budget pressures," wrote Dr. Walid F. Gellad of the Veterans Affairs Center for Heath Equity Research and Promotion, Pittsburgh, and his associates (Ann. Intern. Med. 2013 June 11 [doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-2-201307160-00664]).

The investigators calculated the percentage of diabetes patients using brand name drugs for four common medication classes: oral hypoglycemics (35% for Medicare vs. 13% for VA), angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and angiotensin-receptor blockers (43% for Medicare vs. 21% for VA), statins (51% vs. 18%), and insulin analogues (75% vs. 27%).

Had Medicare used generic drugs at a level comparable with the VA system, it would have saved over $1 billion on the diabetes population alone, the investigators noted.

The study was funded by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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