Close Up Of Pills Pouring Out Of A Prescription Medication Bottle; Image credit: Getty Images

Fills for prescriptions of high-risk medications  (HRMs) are consistently lower among Medicare Advantage enrollees than among traditional Medicare beneficiaries, according to a new study.

Investigators examined data on filled prescriptions that included a 20% sample of Medicare Part D data from 2013 to 2017 and a 40% sample from 2018. Beneficiaries included Medicare beneficiaries aged 66 years or older who were enrolled in Medicare Advantage or traditional Medicare Part D plans.

The researchers looked for the number of unique HRMs prescribed per 1000 older Medicare beneficiaries. Results were adjusted for patient and county characteristics and hospital referral region.

Continued improvements

The results showed a continuation of improvements also observed earlier, between 2007 and 2011, the researchers reported. The number of HRM prescriptions received by older Medicare beneficiaries decreased from 2013 to 2018. In addition, the rate of HRM use among Medicare Advantage beneficiaries was consistently lower than those in traditional Medicare, although the gap has narrowed over time, lead author Jose F. Figueroa, MD, MPH, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston reported.

Notably, certain groups had the highest use of HRMs. These included female, American Indian or Alaska Native and non-Hispanic White populations.

The decline in HRM use across both traditional Medicare and Medicare Advantage is reassuring, the researchers wrote. But “higher rates of filled HRMs among the traditional Medicare, American Indian or Alaska Native, White, and female populations compared with their counterparts warrant further attention,” they concluded.

Full findings were published in JAMA Network Open

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