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Commercial and Medicare Advantage insurers are spending an estimated $129.7 million annually on ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19, even though the antiparasitic drug has not been shown to be effective against the virus, according to a new JAMA study.
The researchers analyzed a sample of a prescription drug database covering the period from December 1, 2020, through March 31, 2021. Ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19 surged in the United States at the end of 2020, according to the paper.
The investigators identified all oral ivermectin prescriptions that were dispensed in the course of the study. They excluded prescriptions for patients who did not have continuous enrollment or had a code for parasitic infections during the week preceding the prescription. The researchers assumed the remaining prescriptions were for COVID-19.
Of the 5939 ivermectin prescriptions written in this sample, 348 (5.9%) were excluded. Of the remaining 5591 prescriptions, 4700 (84.1%) were for privately insured patients. The mean age of those patients was 51.8 years.
Mean out-of-pocket spending on the ivermectin prescriptions was $22. 48 for privately insured patients and $13. 78 for Medicare Advantage patients. Mean insurer reimbursement was $35. 75 and $39. 13, respectively. Aggregate total spending was $273,681 for privately insured patients and $47,143 for Medicare Advantage patients, of which insurer reimbursement represented 61.4% and 74%, respectively.
To assess the potential magnitude of US insurer spending on ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19, the authors estimated private and Medicare plan spending on these prescriptions during the week of August 13, 2021, the most recent week for which dispensing data were available. These estimates were based on their earlier analysis.
The researchers assumed that all 88,000 ivermectin prescriptions dispensed in that week were for COVID-19, except for 3600, the average weekly dispensing total in the 12 months before the pandemic.
They also assumed that 52% (43,888) and 2