Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 22, Issue 8, pp 2185–2195 | Cite as

Use of and spending on supportive care medications among Medicare beneficiaries with cancer

  • Ilene H. ZuckermanEmail author
  • Amy J. Davidoff
  • Mujde Z. Erten
  • Bruce Stuart
  • Thomas Shaffer
  • J. Samantha Dougherty
  • Candice Yong
Original Article



The study objective was to provide population-based estimates of supportive care medication (SCM) use among Medicare beneficiaries with cancer and determine factors related to SCM receipt.


This retrospective cohort study of community-based Medicare beneficiaries used the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (1997–2007). Dependent variables comprised use and spending on SCMs for three medication classes: opioids, antidepressants/sedative/hypnotics (ASH), and antiemetics. Independent variables of interest were supplemental insurance coverage, cancer site, and treatment. Multivariate models determined factors affecting receipt of, and spending on, SCMs. We also compared SCM use and spending among beneficiaries with and without cancer in order to understand what portion of SCM use and spending could be attributed to cancer as opposed to other comorbid conditions.


A total of 1,836 Medicare beneficiaries with cancer and 9,898 beneficiaries without cancer were eligible for the study. Beneficiaries with cancer were more likely to receive opioids, ASH, and antiemetics compared to non-cancer beneficiaries. Adjusted annual payments for antiemetics were on average $637 higher in with cancer versus without cancer (p < 0.01), while ASH payments were $184 lower (p < 0.01). Opioid spending was similar among cancer and non-cancer users. Relative to colon cancer, beneficiaries with prostate cancer were least likely to receive any of the three SCM classes. Receipt of antineoplastic treatment increased the probability of use of all three classes of SCMs. Insurance coverage did not influence the use of or spending on opioids or antiemetics, but was associated with both outcomes for ASH. The use of all three SCM classes was significantly lower during years before Part D implementation of the new Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit and was higher after implementation of Part D.


This study provides population-based information on SCM use among Medicare beneficiaries with cancer. Cancer site and treatment modality were important predictors of SCM use.


Cancer Medicare Part D Supportive care 



Funding sources American Cancer Society RSGI-10-109-01-CPHPS and Supplemental Medical and Drug Insurance and Cancer Related Spending are gratefully acknowledged by the authors.


This article was initiated while Dr. Davidoff was employed at the University of Maryland Baltimore. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Department of Health and Human Services, or the US government.


Portions of this paper were presented at Harry and Elsa Jiler—American Cancer Society Professors Meeting, November 1, 2011.

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have a personal financial relationship with the organization that sponsored the research. The sponsor (American Cancer Society) had no role in the design, methods, data collection, analysis, or preparation of the paper.

Supplementary material

520_2014_2187_MOESM1_ESM.doc (276 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 275 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ilene H. Zuckerman
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Amy J. Davidoff
    • 1
    • 3
  • Mujde Z. Erten
    • 4
  • Bruce Stuart
    • 1
  • Thomas Shaffer
    • 1
  • J. Samantha Dougherty
    • 1
    • 5
  • Candice Yong
    • 1
  1. 1.Peter Lamy Center on Drug Therapy and Aging, Pharmaceutical Health Services Research DepartmentUniversity of Maryland School of PharmacyBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.IMPAQ International, LLCColumbiaUSA
  3. 3.Agency for Healthcare Research and QualityRockvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of SurgeryUniversity of Vermont College of MedicineBurlingtonUSA
  5. 5.Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of AmericaWashingtonUSA

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