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Experts warn of expensive dermatologist prescriptions

Experts warn of expensive dermatologist prescriptions

If you suffer from itchy, irritable skin your first instinctive may be to go see a dermatologist.

However, unless you’re happy to empty your pockets, you should stick to seeing your usual doctor instead, as a new study has found specialists are three times more likely than a primary care provider to prescribe expensive brand products.

Research conducted by Ohio University Medical Center investigated prescription data for people with Medicare Part D drug benefits between 2008 and 2010, with costs adjusted per inflation.

Suggestions from experts in specialty fields, including dermatology, neurology and psychiatry, were also analysed and regardless of the strength of the medication, prescriptions cost more overall when patients visited dermatologists than they would when visiting other physicians.

On average, a 30-day supply of brand prescriptions came in at about $174 (£139) more in total and around $27 (£22) more for an out-of-pocket cost than generic products.

Furthermore, it was discovered that dermatologists prescribed drugs with a total yearly cost of $30 million (£24 million) to $32 million (£26 million).

“We would assume dermatologists are treating more extensive diseases and thus requiring higher volumes of topical treatments, but this was not available in the database,” said senior author Dr. Benjamin Kaffenberger.

“This data is not linked to outcomes or diagnoses. It is possible that outcomes may justify the additional costs in this study. For example, if they get the right treatment that works for them and they don't need return visits.”

Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a researcher at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University, insists generic treatments are just as effective as branded alternatives and advises patients to ask their physicians on whether a cheaper product is available for their condition.

These findings come after a study in 2014 discovered that almost three-quarters of dermatologists in the U.S. received a collective $34 million (£27 million) from drug companies.

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