Prescription drug coverage and chronic pain

Int J Health Econ Manag. 2016 Jun;16(2):189-200. doi: 10.1007/s10754-016-9185-5. Epub 2016 Jan 30.


Chronic pain is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting more than 50 % of older adults. While pain management can be quite complex, prescription drugs are the most commonly used treatment modality. In this study, I examine whether increased access to prescription drugs due to the introduction of the Medicare Part D program in 2006 led to better management of pain among the elderly. While prior work has identified increases in the utilization of analgesics due to the introduction of Medicare Part D, the extent to which this increase in drug use actually improved the well-being of older adults is not known. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, I employ a difference-in-differences strategy that compares pre versus post 2006 changes in pain related outcomes between Medicare eligible persons and a younger ineligible group. I find that Medicare Part D significantly reduced pain related activity limitations among a sample of older adults who report being troubled by pain.

Keywords: Activity limitations; Chronic pain; Difference-in-differences; Medicare Part D.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics
  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage*
  • Medicare Part D*
  • Prescription Drugs / economics*
  • Retirement
  • United States


  • Analgesics
  • Prescription Drugs