Providers endorse bill that would include anxiety drugs under drug benefit

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Two long-term care organizations praised the introduction of a bill that would include a class of drugs currently excluded under the Medicare Prescription Drug Program.

The bill, introduced last week in the House by Ben Cardin (D-MD), would reverse the exclusion of Benzodiazepines. This class of drugs treats seizures, insomnia and acute anxiety from required coverage under the benefit. The category includes Valium, Halcion and Xanax.

The exclusion of this class of drugs under the drug program would necessitate the use of anti-psychotic medications, said Hal Daub, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living.

Benzodiazepines are widely prescribed as part of routine medical care for the elderly and disabled residents in long-term care facilities, and provide care to individuals at the end stages of debilitating organic brain disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.