Growth in Rx Drug Spending Down…--January 2009


The government reports slower growth in spending for prescription drugs in 2007, as a new survey finds many Americans extending their medications to save money.

The government is reporting the lowest growth in health care spending in nearly 10 years and attributes much of the decline to slower growth in retail prescription drug spending. The 6.1% growth in total health care spending in 2007, however, continued to outpace overall economic growth (4.8%)—a continuing concern for policymakers.

Retail prescription drug spending grew 4.9% in 2007, down from 8.6% in 2006, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Several factors contributed to this trend, including sustained growth in the generic dispensing rate, slower growth in Rx drug prices, and growing patient concerns over drug safety, CMS reports. The FDA issued 68 black-box warnings in 2007, compared with 58 in 2006 and 21 in 2003.

Prescription drug prices grew 1.4% in 2007, much slower than the 3.5% growth in 2006. This lower price growth was not only driven by the increased use of generics, but also by the introduction and continuation of generic drug discount programs by large retail chain stores.

The findings of the CMS study are published in the January/February 2009 issue of Health Affairs.

…Millions of Americans Stretching Their Meds to Save $

A recent survey by International Communications Research projects that >13.5 million Americans who used long-term prescribed medications over a 3-month period had taken steps to stretch out their medications—either by reducing the dosage or taking them less often than prescribed.

The telephone survey of 1020 adults was conducted from November 13-16, 2008. Issues of overall cost and the recent financial climate—including factors relating to insurance coverage and medication copays—were the reasons most cited by respondents for why they had begun stretching out their prescriptions. These findings confirm trends reported recently by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Aetna, and others that patients are scaling back on medications in response to economic pressures.

For other articles in this issue, see:

Rapid-Response Teams Add Pharmacists

FDA Says Medication Guides Could Be More User-Friendly

Drug Interactions Higher Among Seniors

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