Seniors May Be Stopping Antidepressants, Other Meds, in Medicare Donut Hole

Are your parents taking their medication? Some Medicare beneficiaries cut back when they reach the drug-coverage gap called the donut hole, according to a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Researchers looked at about 22,000 Medicare beneficiaries who have depression. When those without any donut-hole coverage hit the gap, their use of antidepressants dropped by about 12 percent, Reuters reports.

The no-coverage group also reduced their use of heart failure drugs by 12.9 percent and of diabetes medications by 13.4 percent. “The coverage gap definitely has an effect,” said [Yuting Zhang, the study’s lead author], who added that people might stop taking the drugs for different reasons.

Some may wait for their coverage to reset at the end of the year, and some may still have medicine left over and try to make it last, she said. But just stopping antidepressants is dangerous, the authors warn.

Quitting antidepressants cold-turkey can cause side effects and put you at risk for depression recurrence, the study’s authors explain. The Affordable Care Act is phasing out the donut hole. It’ll be closed in 2020.

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