A switch to generic eye drugs could save Medicare millions

July 18, 2017

A switch to generic eye drugs could save Medicare millions

Michigan Medicine

Treating glaucoma, chronic dry eye, ocular inflammation and eye infections among the elderly comes at a price — perhaps a higher price than necessary.

Eye care providers prescribe more brand medications by volume than any other provider group, data show, making them big influencers of prescription drug spending in the United States.

University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center researchers analyzed the prescribing patterns behind the $2.4 billion in annual Medicare Part D prescription costs generated by eye care providers. A switch to lower-cost generics could save $882 million a year. Negotiating prices like the deals afforded the United States Veterans Administration could save $1.09 billion in total annual ophthalmic drug costs.

“Lawmakers are currently looking for ways to reduce federal spending for health care, and policies that favor generics over brand medications or allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices may lead to cost savings,” says senior author and Kellogg neuro-ophthalmology specialist Lindsey De Lott, M.D., M.S., who is a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation.

Brand medications can cost triple or quadruple the cost of generics. Medication adherence is at stake, researchers say, if patients don’t fill a brand medication prescription because it costs too much.

The work, with senior author and Kellogg glaucoma specialist Paula Anne Newman-Casey, M.D., M.S., earned best poster honors for the Kellogg team at the 2016 American Academy of Ophthalmology national meeting in Chicago before it was published in Ophthalmology.