Medicare spent $2.3 B in 4 years — on skin creams

The rising price of common topical steroids, used to treat skin conditions like eczema, places a large financial burden on both Medicare and patients, according to a new study published in JAMA Dermatology.

For the study, researchers examined average out-of-pocket patient costs and Medicare spending for commonly prescribed topical corticosteroids from 2011 to 2015 using data the Medicare Part D Prescriber Public Use File.

Here are six study findings.

1. Medicare Part D spent $2.3 billion on topical steroids from 2011 to 2015.

2. During the same time period, spending on the medications increased 227 percent, although the number of prescriptions increased only increased by 37 percent, according to the study.

3. Medicare recipients' average out-of-pocket spending for the steroids jumped 146 percent, from $41.4 million in 2011 to $101.8 million in 2015.

4. Generic topical steroids accounted for nearly 98 percent of total spending during the study period.

5. If physicians had prescribed the cheapest version of a steroid when multiple options were available, Medicare could've saved $944.8 million, according to researchers.

6. Researchers analyzed the cost of the steroids based on potency and found costs rose at the slowest rate (23 percent) for the least potent steroids. Costs increased 604 percent for the most potent group of steroids, according to the report.

More articles on supply chain:

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US drug spending to hit $610B by 2021: 4 report findings

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