Physicians Opt for Costlier Drugs

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Researchers have found that many times physicians prescribe newer, more expensive high blood pressure drugs over the ones recommended under medical guidelines, costing the nation >$1 billion a year. The study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (April 21, 2004), used data from Pennsylvania's drug-assistance program. The researchers reviewed >133,000 patients who filled >2 million prescriptions in 2001.

The study found that about 40% of the time, the physicians ordered different medications than those called for under medical guidelines. The result was a $48.5-million prescription bill for the state. Also, getting physicians to prescribe preferred treatments would have saved the state $11.6 million in 2001.The researchers uncovered that calcium channel blockers accounted for the most spending, about $17 million, with an average cost of $33.39 for a prescription. On the other hand, diuretics called thiazides, the least expensive drugs, cost $5.33 a prescription. Thiazides are used as the first-line treatment in patients with hypertension without other complications, according to recommendations by the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.