Turns Out You're Footing the Bill for Americans' Ivermectin

Study of claims show Medicare is covering it
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2022 3:25 PM CST
Turns Out You're Footing the Bill for Americans' Ivermectin
A box of ivermectin is shown in a pharmacy as pharmacists work in the background, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Georgia.   (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

(Newser) – If you're in the camp that believes ivermectin is a wonderful drug ... for ailments other than COVID, a new Mother Jones article is likely to raise your ire. It flags a January study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that looked at just who is paying for the ivermectin doctors have been prescribing COVID patients despite the FDA's warning that doing so is dangerous. The answer: well, you. A team led by Kao-Ping Chua of the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health looked at a sampling of Medicare Advantage claims (excluding ones involving patients who had a diagnosis code for a parasitic infection prior to filling the ivermectin prescription). They found that Medicare Advantage covered, on average, 74% of the cost of each ivermectin prescription, or $39 a pop.

The team added in what private insurers paid (61% of the cost) and arrived at a total of $2.5 million in insurance coverage per week, with Medicare's portion of that being about $925,000. The researchers point out the total is an undercount because it doesn't include Medicaid. "Findings suggest that insurers heavily subsidized the costs of ivermectin prescriptions for COVID-19, even though economic theory holds that insurers should not cover ineffective care," they write. Mother Jones has this takeaway: "Chua’s findings are especially noteworthy when considering one of the main arguments of ivermectin proponents: The drug is cheap, often just a little more than a dollar a dose. Yet the study vividly illustrates that while individual costs can be low, on a population level, they add up fast."

Forbes notes the researchers looked at private and Medicare plan spending during the week of Aug. 13, 2021, and "it's not yet clear how ivermectin prescribing levels may have fluctuated after that week in August." It adds another caveat, which is that the sample used wasn't a random or nationally representative sample but a convenience sample, meaning a sample of the people who happened to be in the database used. The sample they ended up with had a higher proportion of people from the Midwest and a lower proportion from the South. (Read more ivermectin stories.)

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