Drug Sales Increased By Nearly 20% Last Year in US
Retail prescription drug
spending in the US increased for the fifth straight year in
2000, primarily reflecting higher sales of a relatively small
number of drugs.
As an aging population
coped with arthritis, diabetes and high cholesterol, spending on prescription drugs shot up
nearly 20 percent last
year, to $132 billion.
Two dozen products
accounted for half the increase, which occurred not just
because drugs are becoming more expensive but because doctors
are writing many more prescriptions for higher-cost drugs,
the study said.
The study was issued today
by the National Institute for Health Care Management
Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that conducts
research on health care issues.
The trend will probably
increase political pressure for new government benefits to
help elderly people buy prescription drugs, but it also makes
clear how costly such benefits could be. President Bush has
proposed spending $153 billion on drug benefits and
unspecified "Medicare reforms" over the next 10
years, but Democrats say that sum is grossly inadequate, and
the foundation's study may provide new ammunition to both
The $21 billion increase in
spending "was attributable, in large measure, to the
rising volume of prescriptions for the top-selling
drugs," the study said. Researchers said more
aggressive marketing by drug companies contributed to the
The top sellers include Vioxx,
an arthritis drug made by Merck & Company; Lipitor,
a cholesterol reducer sold by Pfizer; Prevacid,
an ulcer drug sold by Tap Pharmaceuticals; Celebrex,
an arthritis medicine marketed by Pharmacia and Pfizer, and Glucophage, a diabetes
drug made by Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The increase in sales of
these five drugs alone accounted for one-fifth of the entire
increase in sales of prescription drugs last year, the study
The rate of increase in
drug spending was about the same last year as in 1999, so the
foundation estimates that drug
spending rose 40
from 1998 to 2000.
That growth has pushed up
health insurance premiums for individuals and families. It has
contributed to increases in the cost of health benefits
provided by employers. And it has driven up the cost of
Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor.
The report identified three
factors contributing to the increase in retail spending on
prescription drugs last year. It said that 42 percent was
attributable to an increase
in the number of prescriptions
written by doctors and filled by pharmacies.
At the same time, it said,
toward the use of more expensive drugs
accounted for 36 percent of the overall increase in spending,
for the remaining 22 percent.
The 50 top-selling
medicines accounted for 30 percent of all prescriptions last
year, and these medications cost almost twice as much as other
drugs, the report said. The average price for a prescription
for one of the top 50 drugs was $67, while the average for
other drugs was $36, it said.
Retail pharmacies filled 3
billion prescriptions last year, an increase of over 7 percent
over the 2.7 billion filled in 1999, the study said. But the
50 best-selling drugs posted a much sharper increase, as the
number of prescriptions rose over 18 percent, to 867 million,
from 731 million.
The government recently
predicted that drug spending would rise an average of 12
percent a year in the coming decade, as scientists unlock
secrets of the human genome, the baby boom generation ages and
the nation pours huge sums into biomedical research, filling
the pipeline with potentially useful new drugs.
Drug companies say they are
developing more than 350 medicines to fight cancer and more
than 120 to treat or prevent heart disease and stroke.
were the best- selling category of prescription medicines last
year, as they were
in 1999. Retail sales of antidepressants totaled over $10
billion in 2000, up 21 percent from the previous year.
The average price for a
prescription of antidepressants was $68 last year, up from $63
The report said this change
"reflects a rise in the price of individual drugs, but
also the fact that pharmacies are dispensing more of the more
expensive antidepressants such as Paxil, Celexa and Wellbutrin."
These drugs, it said, are 50 percent to 75 percent more
expensive than other antidepressants.
Comparing the number of
prescriptions filled in each of the last two years, the study
found that retail pharmacies dispensed 42 percent more
Celebrex, 32 percent more Lipitor, 31 percent more Prevacid,
30 percent more Viagra (for impotence), 71 percent more Enbrel
(for rheumatoid arthritis) and 74 percent more Singulair (for
Nancy Chockley, president
of the National Institute for Health Care Management
Foundation, said: "The recent rise in pharmaceutical
spending is due, in large measure, to the growth in sales of a
relatively small number of medicines. Most of these drugs are
the blockbusters many Americans have come to know by name and
see advertised more and more."
More aggressive marketing
of prescription drugs to consumers and doctors has stimulated
a major increase in sales, in part because consumers learn of
new remedies and ask their doctors for prescriptions,
researchers said. Better insurance coverage for drugs has also
contributed to the trend, by making consumers somewhat less
sensitive to drug prices.
Nineteen drugs had retail
sales exceeding $1 billion last year, up from 15 such drugs in
the list of top sellers was Prilosec, the antiulcer
drug sold by AstraZeneca, with sales of $4 billion last year,
up from $3.6 billion in 1999.
While total sales of
prescription drugs rose 19 percent last year, sales of the 50
best-selling drugs rose 30 percent, to $58 billion, from $45
billion in 1999.
Drugs to treat ulcers,
heartburn and other gastrointestinal problems were second to
antidepressants in overall sales. Retail sales of these
medicines totaled $9.5 billion last year, up 20 percent from
1999. Sales of Prilosec rose 12.4 percent, to $4 billion last
year, while sales of its main competitor, Prevacid, increased
37 percent, to $3 billion.
The study was based on data
from Scott-Levin Inc., a health care market research company
in Newtown, Pa. The figures do not include mail- order sales.
But the report said mail- order sales of prescription drugs
totaled $16 billion last year, up 26 percent from $12.7
billion in 1999.
Times May 8, 2001
Institute for Health Care Management Research and Educational
Foundation May 11, 2001
Isn't this just a
prescription for disaster? The drug companies are having their
heyday now. They are not stupid by any stretch of the
imagination. They have hired some of the most effective
marketing people in the country to promote their products.
increased media exposure through direct advertisments on
television to consumers is making a huge impact.
However, folks the
emperor has no clothes, and the emperor knows it. The
traditional paradigm is fatally flawed. It does NOT work for
any chronic illness. The drug/surgery model is an unmitigated
disaster that has greatly contributed to pharmaceutical
profits at the expense of the health of our country.
The truth will come out.
I hope to facilitate that with this site. You can help by
passing this newsletter to as many people as you know, so they
will have PRACTICAL alternatives to this drug based model that
work and will not accelerate the death rate.
Believe me folks, the
drug companies are NOT your friends. They could care less
about your health. Their main concern is corporate profits. If
you don't believe me carefully review the links below.