Medicare proposes broader access to drug data

December 1, 2006

Washington, D.C.-Medicare Part D claims data could be used to identify drug side effects, improve compliance with prescribed treatment and identify whether certain drugs reduce or increase the use of healthcare services, according to a proposed rule clarifying how researchers may access information from the new Medicare program. In one of his last official acts before departing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in October, former administrator Mark McClellan, MD, unveiled this proposal for enlarging the scope of information on drug costs and effectiveness that could be useful to outside researchers. The ability to link Part D data to Medicare information on hospitalization and outpatient care would provide an "unprecedented resource" for health plans and payers to learn more about the impact of drug coverage on patients and on Medicare and other government health programs, according to CMS.

WASHINGTON, D.C.-Medicare Part D claims data could be used to identify drug side effects, improve compliance with prescribed treatment and identify whether certain drugs reduce or increase the use of healthcare services, according to a proposed rule clarifying how researchers may access information from the new Medicare program. In one of his last official acts before departing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in October, former administrator Mark McClellan, MD, unveiled this proposal for enlarging the scope of information on drug costs and effectiveness that could be useful to outside researchers. The ability to link Part D data to Medicare information on hospitalization and outpatient care would provide an "unprecedented resource" for health plans and payers to learn more about the impact of drug coverage on patients and on Medicare and other government health programs, according to CMS.

CMS emphasizes its policy will protect beneficiary privacy and guard against the potential misuse of data for commercial purposes and that the benefits of research outweigh the possibility of data misuse. Part D information could be used to monitor drug use patterns, detect adverse events and to evaluate the impact of out-of-pocket costs and shifts in coverage from Part B to Part D. While there is general support for the policy, it remains to be seen how fast it moves without a strong advocate such as Dr. McClellan.