PARSIPPANY, N.J. — People ages 65 years and older reduced their volume of prescriptions, while those ages 19 to 25 years increased their use of prescription drugs as the healthcare-reform law allowed them to remain on their parents' insurance, according to a new report by IMS Health.
The report, "The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2011," found that per capita spending on U.S. medicines grew by 0.5% as healthcare system spending reached $320 billion and new drug launches opened new treatment options for more than 20 million Americans.
"2011 was a remarkable year for the volume of drug breakthroughs that became available to millions of Americans," IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics director of research and development Michael Kleinrock said.
The report found that 34 new drug molecules were launched in 2011 — the most in a decade — including first-time treatments for multiple sclerosis, several types of cancer, hepatitis C and cardiovascular conditions. The year also saw the largest number of launches of orphan drugs, which the Food and Drug Administration defines as treating diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 Americans.
"At the same time, some troubling trends that began in 2009 persisted, with many patients appearing to ration their medical care," Kleinrock said. "The implications of fewer doctor visits and lower drug utilization on patients' health have yet to play out and require further study."
According to the report, the number of doctor office visits declined by 4.7%, while emergency room admissions increased by 7.4%. Retail prescription drug use declined by 1.1%, including a 3% decline in 10 states. While people ages 19 to 25 years increased prescription drug use by 2% — with notable rises in the use of antidepressants and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — seniors' use of drugs decreased by 3.1%. The younger age group was the only one whose use of prescription drugs increased.
Meanwhile, total spending on branded drugs increased by 2.2%, while spending on branded drugs launched within the past two years was $12.2 billion in 2011, compared with $8.5 billion in 2010. Spending on generics increased by $5.6 billion, and generics now account for 80% of dispensed prescriptions. Nearly one-third of total healthcare spending was concentrated on cancer, diabetes, dyslipidemia, mental health and such respiratory disorders as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.