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Ivermectin scripts for COVID cost Insurers Nearly 130M Annually

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Commercial and Medicare Advantage insurance companies spend an estimated $129.7 million annually on Ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 even although the antiparasitic drug isn’t proven to be effective against the virus, according to a new JAMA study.

The researchers looked at a sample of the prescription drug database that covers the period beginning on December 1, 2020, until March 31 2021. Ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 soared in the United States at the end of 2020, according to the research paper.

The researchers identified oral ivermectin prescriptions dispensed during the study period and excluded those for patients who lacked continuous enrollment or had an identification for a parasitic illness prior to the prescription. The researchers concluded that the remaining prescriptions were for COVID-19.

348 (5.9%) of the 5939 prescriptions for ivermectin in this study were excluded. Of the remaining 591 prescriptions 4700 (84.1%) were written for privately insured patients. These patients were 51.8 years old on average.

Mean out-of-pocket expenses on Ivermectin prescriptions was $22.48 for patients who are privately insured and $13.78 for Medicare Advantage patients. The mean insurer reimbursement was $35.75 and $39.13, respectively. Aggregate total spending was $273,681 in the case of privately insured patients and $47,143 for Medicare Advantage patients, of which insurer reimbursement was 61.4 74% and 61.4 percent, respectively.

The authors calculated the private and Medicare spending on prescriptions for ivermectin in COVID-19 for the week that ended August 13, 2021 to examine the impact that this could have on US insurance companies. This week was the most recent week for which dispensing data were available. They used their analysis of the earlier sample to inform these estimates.

The researchers assumed that the majority of the 88,000 prescriptions for ivermectin dispense in the week of July were for COVID-19. The exception was for 3600, which was the average weekly total of dispensing in the 12 months prior to the outbreak.

They also estimated that 52% (43,888) and 28 percent (23,632) of the remaining 84,400 prescriptions were covered by private and Medicare plans, which reflects the general nature of the payers for US prescriptions.

The study shows that during the week ending the 13th of August, 2021 Medicare and private plans paid $1,568,996 in each case for ivermectin prescriptions related to COVID-19. The addition of these amounts over 52 weeks resulted in an estimated annual sum of $129673,240.

Restrict coverage

The authors noted that this wasteful spending exceeds the estimated annual Medicare spending on unnecessary imaging for low back pain. They asserted that the amount of waste is even higher because they don’t take into account Medicaid spending.

And, by urging certain people not to get vaccines, they claimed, the unwarranted ivermectin prescriptions could have led to additional COVID-19-related cases that could have increased the cost of insurance.

Researchers suggest that insurance companies restrict ivermectin coverage, by having to obtain prior authorization. This could help reduce the amount of money wasted, they said and only impact a small number of patients suffering from conditions for which the drug is recommended.

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