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Medicare Part D patients pay 10.5 times more in copays for 2 brand-name drugs — 6 points

A Health Affairs study showed Medicare Part D patients paid 10.5 times more in copayments for two brand-name drugs in 2013, according to Kaiser Health News.

Researchers analyzed cost data for all medications in 2013 under Medicare Part D, a dataset CMS released for the first time in 2015.

Here are six points:

1. The two drugs, Crestor, a cholestrol medication, and Nexium, used in acid reflux treatment, averaged $42 in copayments.

2. Previous research cited in the study showed Medicare Part D's elderly and disabled beneficiaries fill three or more prescriptions a month on average, and half of those enrollees received less than $22,500 in income in 2012.

3. In 2013, generics represented 76 percent of the drugs dispensed in Medicare Part D, although brand names seemed to be preferred more in some cases.

4. According to the study, preferred drugs require lower copays than a rival branded drug, but they are both still more expensive than a generic.

5. In 2013, the top 10 drugs in Medicare Part D, ranked by claims, were all generics and accounted for $4.1 billion in expenses. However, when ranked by total spending, the top 10 most expensive drugs that same year were all brand names and represented $19.8 billion in spending. Specifically, Nexium was $2.5 billion and Crestor was $2.3 billion.

6. The researchers estimated that if generic equivalents had been prescribed in 2013 instead, the government, patients and insurance companies could have saved a combined $870 million for omeprazole (in place of Nexium) and $1.2 billion for atorvastatin (in place of Crestor).

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