Prescription Drug Use Dropped in 2008, Though Spending Increased, Medco Research Indicates
Use of prescription drugs in the U.S. declined in 2008 -- the first such decrease in a decade -- but total spending on such treatments increased by 3.3%, according to a report released on Wednesday by Medco Health Solutions, the AP/Washington Post reports. The report attributed the decline in sales to fewer new drugs being introduced in 2008, popular medications becoming available as non-prescriptions and concerns about certain drugs' safety.
Total spending increased largely because of increased use of "specialty" medications for chronic and complicated illnesses, which often are more costly and sometimes require special considerations for storage or delivery to patients, according to the AP/Post. Profits on specialty drugs in 2008 increased by about 16%. The average costs for other brand-name drugs increased by more than 8% in 2008, the largest increase in five years. According to the report, spending on prescription drugs would have been higher but less costly generic medications accounted for 64% of all prescriptions in 2008.
The report predicted that prescription drug use in the U.S. will increase by no more than 1% in 2009 and 2010. However, price increases are expected to contribute to an increase in total spending of 3% to 5% in 2009 and 4% to 6% in 2010 (Seaman, AP/Washington Post, 5/13).