Prescribing Patterns and Costs Associated with Postoperative Eye Drop Use in Medicare Beneficiaries Undergoing Cataract Surgery

Sidra Zafar, Peiqi Wang, Oliver D. Schein, Divya Srikumaran, Martin Makary, Fasika A. Woreta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: To determine costs and prescribing patterns of postoperative eye drops for cataract surgery and estimate potential savings of generic or therapeutic drug substitutions. Design: Retrospective, cross-sectional analysis. Participants: Medicare beneficiaries aged ≥65 years with Part D coverage who underwent cataract surgery in 2016. Methods: Medicare Part D claims were used to extract information on eye drop prescriptions that were filled during the postoperative period of cataract surgery. Savings from generic or therapeutic drug substitutions were estimated for brand medications. Main Outcome Measures: Total cost of postoperative eye drops for cataract surgery and physician and patient factors associated with medication cost. Results: Postoperative eye drops were prescribed in 2016 to 88% of 591 733 Medicare beneficiaries who underwent cataract surgery during that calendar year, with brand medications accounting for 57.5% of prescription volume. The overall cost totaled more than $167 million, 76.5% of which was attributable to use of brand medications. The mean costs of medications were $228 and $324 for those undergoing 1 and 2 surgeries, respectively. Topical antibiotics (89%) were the most commonly prescribed drug class by volume, followed by topical steroids (86%) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (66%), and accounted for 26%, 37%, and 36% of the total cataract surgery eye drop cost, respectively. Use of therapeutic and generic alternatives could have resulted in cost savings of as much as $118 million, or 70% of the total cost of postoperative eye drops. In adjusted analysis, patient factors associated with increased eye drop cost included older age, female gender, and race or ethnicity. Physician characteristics associated with increased eye drop cost included female gender, greater number of years in practice, practicing in metropolitan versus nonmetropolitan areas, and practicing in the Northeast versus the South and in the South versus the Midwest. Conclusions: The cost to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for eye drops prescribed for postoperative use after cataract surgery in 2016 was approximately $170 million. In the absence of evidence of clinical superiority of expensive versus less costly options, substantial opportunity exists to improve the value of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2020


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology

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