Prescription Drug Use among Medicare Patients Highly Inconsistent

Dartmouth Atlas: Oct 15, 2013

 

First-ever Dartmouth Atlas report on prescriptions finds wide variation in the use of both effective and potentially harmful medications across U.S. 

Lebanon, N.H. (October 15, 2013) – A new report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project shows that the use of both effective and risky drug therapies by Medicare patients varies widely across U.S. regions, offering further evidence that location is a key determinant in the quality and cost of the medical care that patients receive.

In their first look at prescription drug use, Dartmouth researchers also find that the health status of a region’s Medicare population accounts for less than a third of the variation in total prescription drug use, and that higher spending is not related to higher use of proven drug therapies. The study raises questions about whether regional practice culture explains differences in the quality and quantity of prescription drug use.

“There is no good reason why heart attack victims living in Ogden, Utah, are twice as likely to receive medicine to lower their cholesterol and their risk of another heart attack than those in Abilene, Texas, but this inconsistency reflects the current practice of medicine in the United States,” said Jeffrey C. Munson, M.D., M.S.C.E., lead author and assistant professor at The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice.  Read more