TennCare Prescription Drug Use Declined After Cap Took Effect
Tennessee's TennCare program spent $706 million for prescription drugs in 2008, less than one-third of the $2.44 billion spent in 2005, according to state figures, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. In 2005, the state capped the number of prescriptions that TennCare beneficiaries could fill per month at five, two of which can be brand-name drugs, Gordon Bonnyman, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said. According to state officials, much of the reductions in spending came from cuts in enrollment and increases in Medicare payments, but drug costs for comparable TennCare beneficiaries fell by nearly 40% in the past three years.
However, a new study of prescription drug use by Novartis Pharmacy Benefit Report found that despite the decline in prescription drug use among TennCare beneficiaries, the average Tennessee resident used nearly 42% more prescriptions than the average U.S. resident in 2008. Studies by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee indicate East Tennessee residents continue to use more prescription drugs than residents in other areas of the state.
Nicole Woods, the acting pharmacy director for TennCare, said, "We have not heard any adverse impacts from the changes we adopted," adding, "I think we have appropriate safeguards in place to help protect those who may have a legitimate medical need." Bonnyman said, "State officials dismiss negative reports as merely anecdotal or reliant on self-reporting, but they have blocked the kind of quantitative evaluation that would be so valuable" (Flesser, Chattanooga Times Free Press, 4/12).