The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (MMA) provides universally available prescription drug benefits to elderly and disabled Medicare beneficiaries for the first time. This paper first discusses three controversial features of this legislation: (1) the form of the prescription drug benefit package; (2) the use of competing private plans; and (3) the uncertainty about the future cost of the new prescription drug benefit. The paper then evaluates the implications for academic medicine of the prescription drug benefit and other MMA legislative provisions aimed at improving the quality of medical practice and shifting away from acute care. Ultimately, the health of seniors and the efficient use of public funds in the new prescription drug benefit depend centrally on the prescribing practices of physicians. Academic medicine should turn its attention to training the next generation of physicians to be more effective agents and advocates for their patients in their use of pharmaceuticals.
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