The most recent report from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy analyzed 2010 prescription data from Medicare Part D, and discovered significant geographic disparities in the use of high-risk medication and key treatments. For example,
Seniors who live in Alexandria, La., were more than three times as likely as those in Rochester, Minn., to receive those potentially harmful drugs, which include muscle relaxants and anxiety relievers that can cause excessive sedation, falls and other problems in older adults.
On the flip side, far more seniors who survived a heart attack were filling prescriptions for cholesterol-lowering statin drugs in Ogden, Utah, than in Abilene, Texas — 91 percent compared to just 44 percent, the study found. That’s even though statins are proven to reduce those patients’ risk of another heart attack.
Researchers also found that patients in regions with higher Part D spending were not more likely to receive the most effective medications. According to the study, the general health of a region’s Medicare population accounts for less than a third of the geographic variation found. Lead researcher Dr. Jeffrey Munson believes that prescriber adherence to best medication practices would greatly reduce these disparities.