Federal officials are crediting a 50%drop in the growth in the number ofprescriptions dispensed per person lastyear as a key factor in reducing theupward spiral in overall US health carespending during 2004.
The encouraging new figures, containedin the annual report from the Centersfor Medicare and Medicaid ServicesOffice of the Actuary, confirm that overallhealth care expenditures in the UnitedStates grew by 7.7% in 2003 to $1.7 trillion—a rate of increase significantly slowerthan the 9.3% growth rate for healthcare spending in 2002.
The growth in spending for prescriptiondrugs decelerated even moresignificantly to 10.7%, down from14.9% in 2002, the federal report said.
Among factors contributing to thisspending slowdown were the conversion of a popular allergy drug to OTCstatus, several drugs losing their patentprotection, and the expanded use oftiered copayment plans.
As a result of these factors, "growthin the number of prescriptions sold perperson slowed to 1.7%, about half the2002 growth of 3.5%,"federal healthofficials said.
"This is good news for the publicand our health care system and is theresult of changes designed to slowdown the growth in spending,"saidHealth and Human Services SecretaryTommy G. Thompson. Administrationofficials pledged to take further steps tohold down health costs during 2005.
Mr. Rankin is a freelance medical writer.