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US drug spending doubled in a decade

Spending for prescription drugs in the US nearly doubled in the decade leading up to 2008, according to newly released government data

Spending for prescription drugs in the US nearly doubled in the decade leading up to the year 2008, according to newly released government data. The figures, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show that spending for prescription drugs in the US was $234.1bn in 2008.

During the 10-year period studied, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44 per cent to 48 per cent, the percentage of those taking two or more increased from 25 per cent to 31 per cent, and the percentage of those taking five or more nearly doubled from six per cent to 11 per cent.

In 2007-2008, 20 per cent of children under the age of 12 and 90 per cent of older Americans aged 60 and above reported using at least one prescription drug in the past month.  Less than 10 per cent of children used two or more prescription drugs, while more than 76 per cent of older Americans used two or more prescription drugs, and 37 per cent of that group used five or more.

The most commonly used drugs were asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol lowering drugs for older Americans.

The research also found that the non-Hispanic white population had the highest prescription drug use of any US ethnic group and the Mexican-American population had the lowest. In addition, women were found to be more likely than men to use prescription medications.

Not surprisingly, prescription drug use and health insurance coverage were closely linked. People with health insurance were almost twice as likely to have used at least one prescription drug in the past month. People with insurance were 22 per cent more likely to use prescription drugs if their coverage included a prescription drug benefit.

7th September 2010

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