3. The medications that are thrown away
Last year, Medicare paid for $725 million worth of expensive medications administered in outpatient clinics — things like chemotherapy drugs — that ended up being discarded, according to new data released by the federal government.
Why it matters: Although that amount is just 2% of what Medicare paid for those types of infusion drugs, that's still a "very astonishing amount of waste," said Rena Conti, a health economist at Boston University who has studied the issue, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
By the numbers: 10 highly discarded drugs accounted for 63% of Medicare's wasted dollars.
Between the lines: Drugs that are given intravenously and are based on someone's weight are more difficult to administer than pills, and some cannot be reused after the vials are opened — thus making them prone to some inevitable waste.
- But some pharmaceutical companies package drugs in oversized single-use vials, knowing a lot will get thrown out but will lead to more reorders and sales.
Yes, but: Requiring companies to make more appropriate vial sizes may not reduce wasted medications or save money.
- Researchers say drug companies could easily adapt because, as monopolists, they would still be able to charge whatever they want regardless of the vial of dose size.
Hospitals and doctors play important roles, too, because they control the purchasing and use of these infused drugs.
- However, "the system does not reward hospitals to be good stewards of resources," Conti said.