Physicians Opt for Costlier Drugs

JULY 01, 2004

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.



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