New research shows $6.7 billion was spent on unnecessary medical tests and treatments in one year in the U.S.

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that $6.7 billion was spent in one year performing unnecessary tests or prescribing unnecessary medications in primary care, with 86 percent of that cost attributed to the prescription of brand-name statins to treat high cholesterol.

The research team reviewed findings from a study published in the May 2011 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, which identified the top five most overused clinical activities in each of three primary care specialties: pediatrics, internal medicine, and family medicine, according to a Mount Sinai press release.

With this information, they performed a cross-sectional analysis of separate data that were pulled from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, the press release noted. They found more than $6.7 billion was spent in excess health care spending in the primary care setting in 2009. Eighty-six percent, or more than $5.8 billion of the unnecessary spending, resulted from the prescribing of brand-name statins rather than generic versions.

The findings are published in a research letter in the online first Archives of Internal Medicine.

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