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Ophthalmic Medication Expenditures and Out-of-Pocket Spending

An Analysis of United States Prescriptions from 2007 through 2016

      Purpose

      To estimate temporal trends in total and out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for ophthalmic prescription medications among adults in the United States.

      Design

      Retrospective, longitudinal cohort study.

      Participants

      Participants in the 2007 through 2016 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) 18 years of age or older. The MEPS is a nationally representative survey of the noninstitutionalized, civilian United States population.

      Methods

      We estimated trends in national and per capita annual ophthalmic prescription expenditures by pooling data into 2-year cycles and using weighted linear regressions. We also identified characteristics associated with greater total or OOP expenditures with multivariate weighted linear regression. Costs were adjusted to 2016 United States dollars using the gross domestic product price index.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Trends in total and OOP annual expenditures for ophthalmic medications from 2007 through 2016 as well as factors associated with greater expenditures.

      Results

      From 2007 through 2016, 9989 MEPS participants (4.2%) reported ophthalmic medication prescription use. Annual ophthalmic medication use increased from 10.0 to 12.2 million individuals from 2007 and 2008 through 2015 and 2016. In this same period, national expenditures for ophthalmic medications increased from $3.39 billion to $6.08 billion and OOP expenditures decreased from $1.34 to $1.18 billion. Per capita expenditure increased from $338.72 to $499.42 (P < 0.001), and per capita OOP expenditure decreased from $133.48 to $96.67 (P < 0.001) from 2007 and 2008 through 2015 and 2016, respectively. From 2015 through 2016, dry eye (29.5%) and glaucoma (42.7%) medications accounted for 72.2% of all ophthalmic medication expenditures. Patients who were older than 65 years (P < 0.001), uninsured (P < 0.001), and visually impaired (P < 0.001) were significantly more likely to have greater OOP spending on ophthalmic medications.

      Conclusions

      Total ophthalmic medication expenditure in the United States increased significantly over the last decade, whereas OOP expenses decreased. Increases in coverage, copayment assistance, and use of expensive brand drugs may be contributing to these trends. Policy makers and physicians should be aware that rising overall drug expenditures ultimately may increase indirect costs to the patient and offset a decline in OOP prescription drug spending.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      AHRQ (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality), CI (confidence interval), FPL (federal poverty level), MEPS (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey), OOP (out-of-pocket), PBM (pharmacy benefit manager)
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