Study: Increasing Antiparasitic Drug Costs in US Lead to Decreased Quality of Care

The increasing prices of the drugs used to treat hookworm, roundworm (ascariasis), and whipworm (trichuriasis) is driving increased costs for patients with Medicaid or private insurance, as well as a potential decrease in the quality of care those patients receive.

The increasing prices of the drugs used to treat hookworm, roundworm (ascariasis), and whipworm (trichuriasis) is driving increased costs for patients with Medicaid or private insurance, as well as a potential decrease in the quality of care those patients receive, according to a new study. In response to the rising costs of these drugs, clinicians have shifted to prescribing more affordable medicines covered by insurance that are less effective in curing these soil-transmitted helminth infections.

A peer-reviewed study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH) found that the appropriate standard of care treatment with private insurance for all 3 infections was consistently received by fewer than 70% of patients. In the case of hookworm diagnosed in those with private insurance, fewer than 30% of patients received the standard of care prescription drug, according to the study.

Albendazole and mebendazole, which are recommended by the CDC for treating these infections, have experienced some of the largest price increases of drugs on the US market. Few alternatives are available for these drugs.

Although the infections in question are uncommon across the United States, they are far more prevalent in rural areas with limited plumbing and poor sanitation. A 2017 study published in AJTMH found that more than one-third of individuals sampled in a poor area of Alabama tested positive for traces of hookworm, a parasite thought to be eradicated from the United States.

REFERENCE

Rising antiparasitic drug cost in U.S. leads to higher patient costs, decreased quality of care [news release]. EurekAlert; March 9, 2021. Accessed March 11, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/b-rad030921.php