medicare part d, prescription drug spending, prescription drug costs

The 10 Drugs that Cost Medicare the Most

In 2017, Medicare covered 30 percent of prescription drug costs under Part D. That added up to $101 billion, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation study.

The following are the drugs that cost Medicare Part D the most.

Top 10 Drugs Costing Part D the Most Money


medicare part d, drug spending

  1. Harvoni (hepatitis C) $4.4 billion
  2. Revlimid (cancer) $2.6 billion
  3. Lantus Solostar (diabetes) $2.5 billion
  4. Januvia (diabetes) $2.4 billion
  5. Crestor (cholesterol) $2.3 billion
  6. Advair Diskus (asthma/COPD) $2.3 billion
  7. Lyrica (nerve/muscle pain) $2.1 billion
  8. Xarelto (blood clots) $1.9 billion
  9. Eliquis (blood clots) $1.9 billion
  10. Spiriva (asthma/COPD) $1.8 billion

The drugs with the highest out-of-pocket price tags for patients under Part D and larger employer plans are those for cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Key takeaways from drug spending study

Some other key takeaways from the KFF study are:

  • Private health plans, Medicare, and Medicaid made up 82 percent of retail prescription drug spending in the U.S. in 2017. Patients paying out-of-pocket made up 14 percent of the total spending.
  • Total retail prescription drug spending in 2017 ($333 billion): 42 percent private health insurance, 30 percent Medicare Part D, 14 percent out-of-pocket, 10 percent Medicaid, and 4 percent other payers.
  • The top therapeutic classes in drug spending by large employer plans, Medicare, and Medicaid are antidiabetic agents, antivirals, and psychotherapeutics.
  • Under large employer insurance, the top three drugs for spending were Humira (arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) , Enbrel (rheumatoid arthritis), and Copaxone (multiple sclerosis) in 2016.
  • Under Medicare Part D, the top three drugs for spending were Harvoni (hepatitis C), Revlimid (cancer), and Lantus Solostar (diabetes) in 2016.
  • Under Medicaid, the top three drugs for spending were Harvoni (hepatitis C), Humira (arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis), and Abilify (depression) in 2016.
  • Average out-of-pocket spending under both Medicare and large employer plans is down, though out-of-pocket spending under Medicare Part D is higher than under large employer plans.

To see the whole study with more details on Medicare Part D drug spending trends, visit the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

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