COVID-19 has further exposed the deep rifts within the U.S. healthcare system, and nowhere are the troubles more evident than in prescription drug statistics. Around 13% of the U.S population reported that they started or increased their drug usage to cope with pandemic-related stress and emotions. At the same time, prescription drug spending has continued to rise faster than the inflation rate.
This article will look at prescription drug price trends, usage statistics and the number of medications the average American takes.
How Many Prescription Drugs Are on the Market?
As of November 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reported it had approved more than 20,000 prescription drug products for marketing in the United States.
In 2019, the number of prescriptions dispensed for those drugs was around 4.22 billion, for an average of nearly 13 prescriptions per person. The most frequently prescribed medications during physician office visits were analgesics, cholesterol medications and antidepressants.
How Many Medications Does the Average American Take?
According to the National Center for Health Statistics at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48.6% of Americans reported using at least one prescription drug in the past 30 days. Around 24% reported using three or more prescribed medications, and 12.8% reported using at least five.
What Are Prescription Drug Price Trends in the U.S.?
Up, up and up is the simple description for U.S prescription drug price trends.
Prescription drug spending was $348.4 billion in 2020, a 3% annual increase compared to the 4.3% rise in 2019. Since 2014, the price of prescription drugs has increased 35%, far outstripping the 19% rise in the price of all goods and services over the same timeframe. Drug spending is expected to grow for the foreseeable future.
What Is the Prescription Drug Use by Country?
Prescription drug statistics vary greatly based on the nation. One measure of prescription drug use by country is per capita spending on prescribed medications. For 2019, medical drug spending per capita for the U.S. and comparable countries stood at:
- United States: $1,126
- Germany: $835
- Canada: $737
- Japan: $683
- Switzerland: $613
- Austria: $521
- Belgium: $512
- Australia: $434
- Sweden: $316
- United Kingdom: $285
The average per capita expenditure for the comparable countries was $554, about half that of the U.S.
Per capita out-of-pocket payments are also higher in the U.S. ($164) than the average for the comparable countries ($88). Out-of-pocket costs ranged from $12 in the United Kingdom to $147 in Canada.
In looking at global prescription drug use, the difference between the U.S. and other countries is also evident in the cost of specific drugs. Discrepancies are particularly noticeable in the prices of specialty drugs. Some examples include:
Harvoni (Ledipasvir/Sofosbuvir), a hepatitis C drug: $31,618 In the U.S. vs. $23,024 for comparable countries
Enbrel (Etanercept), an anti-inflammatory: $4,635 vs. $3,009
Xarelto (Rivaroxaban), a blood thinner: $379 vs $228
Why Is Medical Drug Spending Higher In the U.S.?
Several factors contribute to the difference in prescription drug costs between the U.S. and other countries. These include the availability and prices of biosimilar and generic alternatives and patent protections for drugs.
But the overwhelming factor is that many countries regulate or benchmark the prices that pharmaceutical companies can charge for prescription medication. Prescription drug spending in the U.S. is more unpredictable because there are no regulations on prescription drug costs.
The use of generic drugs instead of brand-name drugs is often touted as one way to combat the high cost of prescription medications. But generics already account for 90% of the drugs prescribed in the U.S., while they represent just 20% of the prices paid for prescription medicine.
One way that the average U.S. citizen can combat growing prescription drug costs is to find a reputable online supplier.
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