CMS: Part D spending on drugs grew 17% in 2014

pills and money
Drugs and money.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released its spending data on the Part D drug program in 2014, which shows a rise in the amount of drugs prescribed and their cost. The data pertains to the 38 million Part D enrollees, who comprise about 70 percent of the people enrolled in the Medicare program.

Part D spending rose 17 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, reaching $121 billion in total. That's somewhat higher than the overall 12.6 percent increase in spending on prescription drugs that occurred in the United States between 2013 and 2014, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“With this data release, patients, researchers and providers can access valuable information about the Medicare prescription drug program,” CMS Chief Data Officer Niall Brennan said in a statement. “Today’s release joins a series of actions the Administration is taking to improve transparency around government data, including the cost of prescription drugs.”

The hepatitis C treatment Sovaldi was the drug on which Medicare spent the most money, a total of $3.1 billion in 2014, according to a CMS fact sheet. Spending on hepatitis C has dramatically transformed the economics of the Part D program in recent years. The program only spent $286 million on hepatitis C drugs in 2013. Moreover, the use of the drugs to effectively treat the once incurable disease has roiled the Medicaid program, which has tried to stretch resources to care for its primarily low-income enrollees.

Nexium, which is used to treat esophageal reflux, was the second-costliest drug for Part D, at $2.6 billion. The ACE inhibitor Lisinopril, which is used to treat high blood pressure, was the most-prescribed drug, with 7.5 million beneficiaries, 38.3 million associated claims and $281.6 million in associated costs.

By contrast, Sovaldi was associated with little more than 33,028 beneficiaries associated with 109,543 claims.

- read the CMS statement
- check out the CMS drug list