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Small Number of Drugs Are Most of Medicare’s Cost

Published on: May 01 2015

When people dig into the data on medical spending, especially government’s share of the spending, they always reach one conclusion. A relatively small number of people consume most of the medical care in this country. Most people are relatively healthy, don’t use much medical care, and don’t take many drugs. But people with chronic conditions or who develop a few diseases that are expensive to treat account for much of the spending. Another way to look at it is that the bulk of medical expenses are incurred in the last year or two of life in most cases.

The latest slicing and dicing of medical spending comes after Medicare released details about prescription drug spending under Medicare Part D. One heartburn drug, for example, is the largest expense, taking up 2.4% of all Medicare prescription drug spending. Some details are here.

Spending on Nexium was $2.53 billion in 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday, followed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc’s asthma treatment Advair Diskus at $2.26 billion. The data cover beneficiaries of Medicare Part D, the privately run, publicly funded prescription drug program for the elderly.



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