Drugs oncologists prescribe cost a lot more than other specialty drugs

Yesterday, for the first time, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released data on prescription claims under Medicare part D at the provider-level. This means you can now see the number and cost of drugs prescribed by each individual health care provider (e.g. physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner). Over the course of 2013, over one million unique providers prescribed $103 billion in prescription drugs.

There are a lot of interesting ways to look at this data, but one quick view is to look at the average cost of a prescription by specialty of the health care provider. The figure below shows that when a hematologist/oncologist prescribes a drug it costs hundreds of dollars more than the average drug prescribed by providers in different specialties. Despite the very high average cost per drug prescribed by hematologists/oncologists, the total cost of prescription drugs prescribed by hematologists/oncologists was $5 billion in 2013 compared to the $23 and $27 billion prescribed by family and internal medicine physicians, respectively, due to the large volume of patients seen by family and internal medicine physicians every year.

Prescription drug claims made in 2013 under Medicare Part D

Graphic 31Notes: For a detailed description of the limitations of this data please see the original press release referenced below.
Data Source: Chart 2 from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services press release on April 30, 2014.

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