Medicare Part D Is Growing Up

Aug 01, 2007

Medicare Part D enrollees accounted for nearly 15 percent of total retail prescription sales in 2006, filling almost 486 million scrips throughout the year. Hypertension drugs got the biggest chunk of the pie, taking in 122 million prescriptions and accounting for a quarter of all drugs sold through Part D. Lipid regulators came in a far second with 7.4 percent of scrips sold, and antidepressants got 5.1 percent share.

The figures are part of a new IMS Health report, Medicare Part D: The First Year, which was published Tuesday. (For a copy, go to

Some key insights from the report:

Previous coverage Fifty-eight percent of patients who enrolled in Part D converted from another coverage program. Another 24 percent switched from Medicaid, and only 14 percent of patients had no health insurance in 2005. Previously uninsured patients received the most benefit from enrolling in the program, increasing their savings by 60 percent, and they boosted pharmaceutical use by 26 percent.

Branded versus generics Use of unbranded generic drugs in Part D was slightly greater than in the total retail market--58 percent compared with 57 percent. Branded generics made up 6 percent of Part D scrips, compared with 10 percent of retail prescriptions. Branded drugs accounted for 36 percent of Part D prescriptions, compared with 34 percent for all retail scrips.

The Doughnut Hole Approximately 6 percent of Part D participants hit the program's coverage gap, which comes when a patient has spent more than $2,250 and less than $5,100 in out-of-pocket costs. Slightly less than half of those who reached the gap did so in the last quarter of the year. According to IMS, many of those who hit the gap earlier kept spending in order to move to catastrophic coverage.

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