Medicare spent $2.1B on discarded drugs in 2 years, study shows

More than $2.1 billion of Medicare Part B's spending from 2017 to 2019 went toward discarded units of drugs, according to a Medicare Advantage analysis.

Medicare spent $752 million on discarded drugs in 2019, up from $725 million the year before. 

After examining CMS' spending data, the researchers found that most of the wasted drugs were chemotherapy or oncology treatments. They said most of the waste is a result of single-dose vials or medication containers that include higher doses than necessary to treat the average patient.

In order to illustrate what the $2.1 billion could have paid for instead of discarded drug doses, the researchers laid out a few alternatives. That amount of money could cover the costs of 46.6 million flu shots, a year's-worth of insulin for 5 million Medicare Part D beneficiaries with diabetes or the total annual household spending for over 168,000 families of four on an employer health insurance plan.

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