Psychiatric News reports on the Medicare Benzodiazepine exclusion:
Last month APA praised Reps. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.) and Jim Ramstad (R-Minn.) for co-sponsoring legislation that would reverse the exclusion of benzodiazepine medications from reimbursement under the new Medicare Part D drug benefit. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) contained language that required that benzodiazepines be excluded from coverage by the new drug benefit, which begins January 1, 2006 (Psychiatric News, February 4). Psychiatrist Stevan Gressitt, M.D., founder of the Maine Benzodiazepine Study Group, told Psychiatric News during an interview for a previous article, "The alternatives really are grim. If these patients don't have access to benzodiazepines after January 2006, then they will most likely be switched to something that is covered—an SSRI or an atypical antipsychotic. Neither one of those would be my first choice for an elderly or disabled patient with multiple medical problems who is probably taking several other medications."
Dr. Gressitt's comments don't make sense. For an elderly patient, an SSRI is often a better choice than a benzo. Most psychiatrists try to avoid benzodiazepines in the elderly due to the cognitive side effects and the risk of falls.