Medicare Reimbursement Changes May Lead to More Antibiotic Use

Janice Simmons, August 16, 2010

With improved drug coverage under Medicare Part D, the use of antibiotics by beneficiaries—particularly brand name, new, and more expensive drugs—is on the upswing, according to a study from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Medicine.

In particular, the study, which appears in the Aug. 9/23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests recent Medicare reimbursement changes in drug coverage improved, for instance, the use of antibiotics for pneumonia. However, this also could lead to unnecessary spending for expensive broad spectrum antibiotics and possible overuse of inappropriate antibiotics.

"Overuse of antibiotics is a common and important problem that can lead to medical complications and drug resistance," said the study's lead author, Yuting Zhang, PhD, assistant professor of health economics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The study reviewed about 35,000 Medicare beneficiaries and examined their use of antibiotics two years before and after the implementation in 2006 of Medicare Part D, which reduced out of pocket drug spending between 13% and 23%. Increases were seen most among those seniors who did not previously have drug coverage.

Janice Simmons Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at
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