Drug Costs and Use in VHA Nursing Homes: A National Overview of Long-Stay Residents

Dustin D. French*, Robert R. Campbell, Andrea M. Spehar, Laurence Z. Rubenstein, Francesca E. Cunningham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objectives: The aim of this study was to provide national annualized estimates of drug costs and use by drug classes for long-stay nursing home (NH) residents. Design: National, descriptive, secondary data analysis. Setting: National, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), 136 NHs. Participants: Our study population consisted of 6554 VHA long-stay NH residents, identified from the Minimum Data Set (MDS), who had an annual assessment during FY 2005 linked with 8,847,561 inpatient pharmacy claims. Measurement: Descriptive statistics of the annual drug costs and use by VHA therapeutic drug classes obtained from FY 2005 national pharmacy claims linked at the individual resident level. Results: The total cost of the drugs was $23,782,717 in 326 drug classes for 6554 VHA NH residents. Average annual drug cost was $3629 per resident (99% Confidence Interval [CI], $3343-$3915). The top 20 drug classes accounted for nearly 70% of total drug costs for long-stay NH residents. Approximately three quarters (73.3%) of these residents received a non-opioid analgesic (eg, acetaminophen, aspirin). Over half of these residents received antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs]) (54.3%), or other anti-infective drugs (eg, bacitracin, ciprofloxacin) (53.3%). Conclusions: This is the first national study of drug costs and use for long-stay veterans in VHA NHs. It is essential in any study analyzing drug costs and use in NH patients to differentiate long-stay residents from short-stay patients. This kind of detailed cost and use analysis has implications for projecting future costs associated with the Medicare Part D prescription benefit for dually eligible NH residents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)515-518
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of the American Medical Directors Association
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Medicare Part D
  • Nursing homes
  • drug costs
  • drug use
  • long-term care
  • veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Health Policy
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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