Revealed: Medicare’s Most Popular And Costliest Drugs

The disclosures are part of a larger drive by Medicare to open up its records to researchers, journalists and the public at large. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services previously released data on how much hospitals charge for their services and on the financial ties between physicians and the manufacturers of prescription drugs and medical devices.

“We know that there are many, many smart minds in this country that can help us see these data in new and better ways. We’re excited to unleash those minds and see what they can find,” Sean Cavanaugh, director of the health care agency’s Center for Medicare, said during a conference call with reporters Thursday…

In addition to Nexium, Medicare spent more than $2 billion on three other prescription drugs in 2013: GlaxoSmithKline’s Advair Diskus for respiratory illnesses; AstraZeneca’s Crestor for high cholesterol; and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Abilify for depression, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder…

A high blood pressure medication called lisinopril accounted for the largest number of Medicare claims in 2013, 36.9 million, and the program spent $307 million on it. Medicines to treat thyroid disorders, pain, diabetes and heart disease rounded out the list of drugs with the most claims. Pharmaceuticals for respiratory ailments, depression, high cholesterol, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, anemia and cancer made the list of the costliest drugs…

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