Background: When incretin mimetic (IM) medications were introduced in 2005, their effectiveness compared with other less-expensive second-line diabetes therapies was unknown, especially for older adults. Physicians likely had some uncertainty about the role of IMs in the diabetes treatment armamentarium. Regional variation in uptake of IMs may be a marker of such uncertainty.
Objective: To investigate the extent of regional variation in the use of IMs among beneficiaries and estimate the cost implications for Medicare.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional analysis of 2009-2010 claims data from a nationally representative sample of 238 499 Medicare Part D beneficiaries aged ≥65 years, who were continuously enrolled in fee-for-service Medicare and Part D and filled ≥1 antidiabetic prescription. Beneficiaries were assigned to 1 of 306 hospital-referral regions (HRRs) using ZIP codes. The main outcome was adjusted proportion of antidiabetic users in an HRR receiving an IM.
Results: Overall, 29 933 beneficiaries (12.6%) filled an IM prescription, including 26 939 (11.3%) for sitagliptin or saxagliptin and 3718 (1.6%) for exenatide or liraglutide. The adjusted proportion of beneficiaries using IMs varied more than 3-fold across HRRs, from 5th and 95th percentiles of 5.2% to 17.0%. Compared with non-IM users, IM users faced a 155% higher annual Part D plan ($1067 vs $418) and 144% higher patient ($369 vs $151) costs for antidiabetic prescriptions.
Conclusion: Among older Part D beneficiaries using antidiabetic drugs, substantial regional variation exists in the use of IMs, not accounted for by sociodemographics and health status. IM use was associated with substantially greater costs for Part D plans and beneficiaries.
Keywords: Medicare; diabetes; pharmacoepidemiology; regional variation.
© The Author(s) 2014.