Medicare and Medicaid could save billions if doctors prescribed short-acting medications instead of extended-release versions, according to a new study in JAMA Network Open.
Researchers looked at Medicare and Medicaid spending between 2012 and 2017. They found that switching from extended-release drug formulations to equivalent generic immediate-release formulations would have saved the health care programs nearly $14 billion, including $8.5 billion for Medicare and $5.2 billion for Medicaid. The savings in 2017 alone would have been $2.6 billion.
“It’s not a huge difference in terms of patient convenience, but the cost difference is remarkable,” study coauthor Dr. Ambarish Pandey of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas told Reuters.
Pandey told the news service that insurers should demand that drug companies lower the cost of extended-release drugs so that they’re comparable to the short-acting versions. “If Medicare puts its foot down and says it won’t put the extended-release versions on their formulary unless the price is similar to that of the immediate-release formulations, things will change,” he said.