HEALTH CARE COST HITS $2 TRILLION

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Whereas the rate of spending on prescription drugs has gradually decreased, the US total health care bill for 2004 totaled almost $2 trillion. The study, reported in Health Affairs (January 10, 2006), found that prescription drug costs, which comprised 11% of all health costs, rose at a slower pace, compared with hospital and physician visits. Drug sales increased by 8.2% in 2004, a rate 2% less than the 2003 figure. The researchers suggested that the introduction of fewer blockbuster drugs during the study period contributed to the decrease.

The results of the study, conducted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, also indicated that the launch of OTC and generic equivalents of bestselling drugs lowered overall drug costs.