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Concept: Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

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Prescription drugs are a major source of US health care expenditure. “Me too” brand-name medications contribute to the cost of drugs, which is substantial for consumers. In 2013 patient copayments averaged 10.5 times more for two commonly prescribed brand-name medications versus generic therapeutic alternatives.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicare, Medicine, Illness, Medicare Part D, Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Pharmaceuticals policy

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High out-of-pocket costs may limit access to oral therapies covered by patients' prescription drug benefits. We explored financial barriers to treatment initiation in patients newly diagnosed with metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC) by comparing Medicare Part D patients with low out-of-pocket costs due to receipt of full low-income subsidies (LIS beneficiaries) to their counterparts who were responsible for more than 25% cost sharing during Medicare’s initial coverage phase (non-LIS beneficiaries). We used 2011-2013 100% Medicare claims for non-LIS and LIS beneficiaries newly diagnosed with metastases in the liver, lung, or bone to examine targeted therapy treatment initiation rates and time to initiation for (1) oral medications (sorafenib, sunitinib, everolimus, pazopanib, or axitinib) covered under Medicare’s prescription drug benefit (Part D); (2) injected or infused medications (temsirolimus or bevacizumab) covered by Medicare’s medical benefit (Part B); and (3) any (Part D or Part B) targeted therapy. The final sample included 1721 patients. On average, non-LIS patients were responsible for out-of-pocket costs of ≥$2,800 for their initial oral prescription, as compared to ≤$6.60 for LIS patients. Compared to LIS patients, a lower percentage of non-LIS patients initiated oral therapies (risk-adjusted rates, 20.7% vs. 33.9%; odds ratio [OR] = 0.49, 95% CI: 0.36-0.67, P < 0.001) and any targeted therapies (26.7% vs. 40.4%, OR = 0.52, 95% CI: 0.38-0.71, P < 0.001). Non-LIS patients were also slower to access therapy. High cost sharing was associated with reduced and/or delayed access to targeted therapies under Medicare Part D, suggesting that financial barriers play a role in treatment decisions.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicare, Cancer, Renal cell carcinoma, Health insurance in the United States, Medicare Part D, Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

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Psoriasis is a common chronic inflammatory disorder, primarily of the skin. Despite an aging population, knowledge of the epidemiology of psoriasis and its treatments among the elderly is limited. We examined the prevalence of psoriasis and its treatments, with a focus on biologics and identification of factors associated with biologic use, using a nationally representative sample of Medicare beneficiaries in 2011. Based on several psoriasis identification algorithms, the claims-based prevalence for psoriasis in the United States ranged from 0.51% to 1.23%. Treatments employed for moderate to severe psoriasis (phototherapy, oral systemic, or biologic therapies) were received by 27.3% of the total psoriasis sample, of whom 37.2% used biologics. Patients without Medicare Part D low-income subsidies had 70% lower odds of having received biologics than those with low-income subsidies (odds ratio 0.30; 95% confidence interval, 0.19-0.46). Similarly, the odds of having received biologics was 69% lower among black patients than white patients (0.31; 0.16-0.60). This analysis identified potential financial and racial barriers to receipt of biologic therapies and underscores the need for additional studies to further define the epidemiology and treatment of psoriasis among the elderly.Journal of Investigative Dermatology accepted article preview online, 27 July 2015. doi:10.1038/jid.2015.296.

Concepts: Medicare, Sample size, United States, Psoriasis, Health insurance in the United States, Medicare Part D, Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

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Criticisms during the implementation of Medicare Part D are echoed in those being voiced about the Affordable Care Act. Yet Part D successfully expanded drug benefits to millions of beneficiaries and improved access to medications, at lower-than-expected cost.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicare, Drug, Pharmaceutical drug, Health insurance in the United States, Medicare Part D, Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program

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Purpose The high cost of oncology drugs threatens the affordability of cancer care. Previous research identified drivers of price growth of targeted oral anticancer medications (TOAMs) in private insurance plans and projected the impact of closing the coverage gap in Medicare Part D in 2020. This study examined trends in TOAM prices and patient out-of-pocket (OOP) payments in Medicare Part D and estimated the actual effects on patient OOP payments of partial filling of the coverage gap by 2012. Methods Using SEER linked to Medicare Part D, 2007 to 2012, we identified patients who take TOAMs via National Drug Codes in Part D claims. We calculated total drug costs (prices) and OOP payments per patient per month and compared their rates of inflation with general health care prices. Results The study cohort included 42,111 patients who received TOAMs between 2007 and 2012. Although the general prescription drug consumer price index grew at 3% per year over 2007 to 2012, mean TOAM prices increased by nearly 12% per year, reaching $7,719 per patient per month in 2012. Prices increased over time for newly and previously launched TOAMs. Mean patient OOP payments dropped by 4% per year over the study period, with a 40% drop among patients with a high financial burden in 2011, when the coverage gap began to close. Conclusion Rising TOAM prices threaten the financial relief patients have begun to experience under closure of the coverage gap in Medicare Part D. Policymakers should explore methods of harnessing the surge of novel TOAMs to increase price competition for Medicare beneficiaries.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicare, Illness, Health insurance in the United States, Medicare Part D, Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Consumer price index

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