Medicare Paid For $40 Million Worth of Tranquilizer Prescriptions in 2013
In 2012, Medicare’s massive prescription drug program didn’t spend a penny on popular tranquilizers such as the benzodiazepines Valium, Xanax and Ativan. The following year, it covered more than $377 million for the tranquilizer drugs.
Some geriatric psychiatrists worry that doctors may have turned to the drugs in place of antipsychotic medications to sedate patients with conditions such as dementia. In the past several years, Medicare has pushed to reduce the use of antipsychotics, particularly in nursing homes, because of strong warnings about their risks.
In 2013, Medicare covered more prescriptions for benzodiazepines than for antipsychotics. However, there are problems associated with these medications as well. Researchers from the American Medical Association found that the longer a person took benzodiazepines, the higher his or her risk increased of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The drugs’ labels say they are generally for short-term use, but many patients take them for years.
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