IMS Institute: Rx drug spend experiences slower growth

PARSIPPANY, N.J. — U.S. spending on drugs grew 2.3% to $307.4 billion in 2010, according to a new report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, part of industry research firm IMS Health.

The growth significantly was lower than the 5.1% growth seen in 2009, and the volume of prescription drugs consumed overall also rose at historically low levels. The report, “The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2010,” attributed the slower growth to a combination of increased use of generics, loss of patent protection for branded drugs, decreased demand, a 4.2% decrease in the number of doctors' office visits with a result in fewer new therapy starts and less spending on new drugs, which in part resulted from problems in the economy.

Of the almost 4 billion prescriptions filled through retail channels, chain drug stores were the top choice, thanks to convenience, their acquisitions of independent drug stores and the availability of generic drugs. Overall, chain drug stores increased their market share by 0.5%.

The top five therapy classes last year were cancer drugs, which saw $22.3 billion in spending; respiratory drugs, at $19.3 billion; lipid regulators, at $18.7 billion; diabetes drugs, at $16.9 billion; and antipsychotic drugs, at $16.1 billion. Spending growth ranged from 0.9% for lipid regulators to 12.5% for diabetes drugs, though despite having the highest sales, cancer drugs grew by only 3.5%. Spending on branded drugs decreased by 0.7%, while spending on generics increase by 4.5% for branded generics and 21.7% for unbranded generics. Generics now account for 78% of all retail prescriptions dispensed.

“It became apparent in 2010 that the healthcare landscape is shifting in significant ways,” IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics research development director Michael Kleinrock said. “Physicians and patients have more therapy options than ever, and yet spending on medicines is rising at historic lows with the impact of patent expiries and reduced patient activity. The long-term effect on patient health and few doctor office visits and new therapy starts is unclear and requires closer attention.”

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