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During a recent five-year period, Medicare spending on hundreds of medicines to treat various neurologic conditions, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, rose 50%, but the number of claims increased only 8%, according to a new study.

Consequently, Medicare spent $4 billion in 2013 but doled out $6 billion by 2017 for these treatments. In addition, neurology medicines, mostly those used to combat multiple sclerosis, accounted for more than 50% of total Medicare payments, despite representing just 4% of all claims filed. The study also found that spending for these drugs rose 47%, from $3,337 per claim to $4,902.


The study, which was published in the Neurology medical journal, is the latest to suggest that the rising cost of neurology treatments has contributed to increasing spending on prescription medicines. This has been a hot potato of a political issue for the past several years and multiple sclerosis medicines have been cited more than once as a contributing factor.

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  • Yawn. Glowing press coverage for another meaningless list price study.

    Contrary to Ed’s statement above, this study did *not* reflect post-purchase rebates from pharmacies and manufacturers, a.k.a., DIR. Instead, it relied on “negotiated prices,” which reflect the rates than Part D plans paid to pharmacies. These negotiated rates approximate list prices for brand-name drugs. (BTW, the article neglects to acknowledge this limitation.)

    Consequently, this shoddy study adds nothing to the debate, since many of these drugs had large and growing rebates during this period.

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