Medicare and Viagra

Do recent FDA approvals pave the way for coverage of ED medication by Medicare?

Erectile Dysfunction Drugs

In December the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported that it had approved 35 new drugs for sale in the United States in the fiscal year 2012.

In the report, the DDA said, “Most of the drugs were approved for U.S. patients before they were available in other countries, and the efficiency of the drug review process continued to grow.”

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 10% of U.S. health care spending in 2012 went to pay for prescription drugs, making it the third largest expense after spending for hospital services and physician services.

Among the “novel” medicines approved by the FDA last year, 10 were approved for treatment of different forms of cancer. Drugs were also approved for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and HIV. A meningitis vaccine was also approved, along with the first approved cord blood product.

But, the two new drugs approved by the FDA that could draw the most interest from the general public are a new treatment for chronic weight management called Belviq, and a new treatment for erectile dysfunction, called Stendra.

Medicare, Stendra, and Viagra

The FDA report doesn’t describe how Belviq or Stendra differ from their well known predecessors, Orlistat and Viagra (respectively) and there’s little information about the two drugs available online. But, there are some upsides to have new competitors available on the market.

To be clear, there does not seem to be any momentum behind Medicare covering the use of popular ED treatments like Viagra or Levitra – in part because of what we described in an earlier post on the topic. But, a treatment for ED could be a good sign for people who pay for the older treatments out of their own pocket, as competition from new and improved treatments always has the potential to drive costs down.

Alternative ways to save money on Rx drugs

While everyone waits for Viagra to go generic, or for Medicare to change its position on covering ED medications, there is another relatively easy way to cut down on the cost of prescription drugs. eHealth’s free eBestRX Card does provide discounts of up to 65 percent on the cost of prescription drugs.

And, the card is easy to use. You can simply print it right off of eHealthInsurance.com, and start using it to save money on prescription drug right away.

New FDA approval process

Overall, the FDA said 77 percent of the 35 drugs they approved in 2012 were approved without the need for additional information that lengthens review time. For the calendar year, U.S. regulators approved 31 novel new drugs, beating the FDA’s seven-year high of 30 last year, according to the agency’s website.

A more responsive FDA can only mean good things for people who depend on new and existing medications to help prolong and improve their quality of life.

About Nate Purpura

As an 18-year veteran of print and broadcast journalism, corporate communications and internet marketing, Nate Purpura has spent the last decade working in the health care and insurance industries. His areas of focus have included everything from pharmaceuticals, health and wellness and chronic disease management programs, to cutting diagnostic tools, insurance products, including Medicare, and internet-based “exchanges” or marketplaces.
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