New research suggests that Medicare Part D drug coverage has resulted in increased usage of antibiotics, according to an August 10, 2010 article on Implementation of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan led to increased access for many seniors who previously had no drug coverage at all, and reduced out-of-pocket spending by 13 to 23 percent. Prescription Drugs

Yuting Zhang and colleagues were interested in learning whether Medicare Part D led to increased utilization of antibiotics. In a study published in the August 9/23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers compared antibiotic usage for more than 35,000 seniors before and after Medicare Part D was introduced. Not surprisingly, the greatest increase in antibiotic usage was among seniors who had no coverage at all prior to Medicare Part D, and those who previously had limited coverage also showed significant increases in the use of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are used to treat infections that can be life-threatening for ailing seniors with compromised immune systems, such as pneumonia. Use of antibiotics to treat pneumonia tripled among seniors who previously had no drug coverage.

This research is promising, because it indicates that seniors are more likely to receive treatment for potentially life-threatening infections, which can increase survival rates and improve longevity.

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