U.S. drug spending up, thanks to new drug launches

The good news: New drugs do push up drug spending. At least that was the case in 2011, when U.S. spending on medications rose to $320 billion. It was a 3.7% increase from 2010 levels--not enough to inspire a fireworks display, but better than nothing.

Unfortunately for drugmakers and for public health, spending might have grown more had people taken their drugs as prescribed, filled every script they were given and visited their doctors on schedule. Prescription drug use actually dropped 1.1% on a per-capita basis, and doctor's-office visits dropped 4.7% overall. Seniors' prescriptions were off even more, 3.1% per capita.

What's to blame? Ongoing economic weakness, for one thing. And then there's the patient's increased share of healthcare costs. Premiums are up, and so are co-pays for office visits and medications, says IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics' Michael Kleinrock. "We've reached a tipping point where patients will actually take that increased cost and use less medicine," Kleinrock told CNBC.

Young adults were the only ones whose script numbers increased. ADHD and depression drugs helped fuel that 2% rise. Overall, 5 therapy areas grew faster than the overall drug market--and accounted for one-third of total spending: cancer drugs; asthma and COPD treatments; cholesterol and other lipid regulators; diabetes meds; and, in the psychotropic drug realm, bipolar disorder treatments and antipsychotics.

- see the IMS press release
- read the CNBC coverage
- get more from Bloomberg

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