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US Drug Spending and Use in 2010

By April 20, 2011Commentary

IMS tracks drug spending and use in the United States through some very detailed databases.  The company’s new Institute for Healthcare Informatics issued a report summarizing 2010 stats.  (IMS Report) Drug spending in the United States in 2010 was $307 billion, up a nominal 2.3% from 2009 but only a .6% increase on a real, per capita basis.  The total volume of drugs used in oral form increased .5%, or a decline of .3% on a per capita basis and injectible or infused drugs increased .2% overall, but a .6% decline on a per person basis.  The total number of prescriptions at retail was almost exactly 4 billion, a very low historic increase of only 1.2%.

Chain drugstores showed an increase in their share of prescriptions filled.  Commercial insurance paid for 63% of prescriptions, down from 66% five years before.  Medicare Part D covered 871 prescriptions, or 22% of the total.  The average copay was $10.73, which actually was a decrease from the earlier year, due to the ongoing switch to generics, which have low or no copays.  While branded drugs had high price increases and still account for $229 of the total drug spending, they saw volume declines more than offsetting those price increases.  Generics are now 78% of all prescriptions and as some important patents expire soon, that percent and the percent of overall spending will pickup.

There are fewer major blockbusters being introduced in recent years and projected in the next couple of years.  This keeps spending lower, but may reflect fewer innovative therapies that could improve patient outcomes.  While slowing drug use and cost may seem to be good for our health spending problem, some of the declining trend may be due to people not filling prescriptions due to cost, which may lead to quality problems and even more spending if the drugs would have prevented or kept in check a disease.  One clear benefit is the continue switch to generics.

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