Getting the Facts on Cost of Medicines

Prescription Medicines Account for a Decreasing Percentage of Health Care Spending

01.28.14 | By

Editor's note: this post was updated to clarify data. 

When looking at an issue as important and complex as health care costs in the U.S., it’s critical that full facts, not select data, lead the discussion. Drew Armstrong’s recent article about a Hepatitis C medicine paints an incomplete picture of our health care system and further propels inaccurate information about prescription medicines.

To fairly assess health care cost projections, it’s important to use the full range of available dates, which show prescription medicines are anticipated to grow at an average rate of 5.7 percent compared to 6.0 percent of overall health care spending between 2012 and 2022, according to data from CMS’ Office of the Actuary. When you compare these stats, it shows that prescription medicines account for a decreasing percentage of health care spending, and are projected to grow more slowly than overall health care spending through 2022.

Progress in the fight against diseases like Hepatitis C would not be possible without the billions of dollars of investment that are put into the development of new life-changing treatments. While some new medicines may cost more to develop, the fact is that the share of total health spending attributable to retail prescription drugs has fallen steadily over the past several years. Additionally, prescription medicines are subject to much higher levels of cost-sharing from insurers in comparison to other medical services, despite their ability to improve patients’ lives and reduce other, more costly medical expenditures, such as hospitalizations.

Out-of-pocket costs are a real concern for patients and through patient assistance programs and the Partnership for Prescription Assistance, PhRMA member companies have helped nearly 8 million people to date.

Singling out prescription drugs as a significant driver of health care spending, when data (link goes to a zipped CSV file) proves otherwise, brings us no closer to a solution for controlling health care costs for patients.

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