Drug spending slows along with overall health care spending

Spending on prescription drugs in 2004 slowed to 8.2 percent to $188.5 billion -- the first single-digit growth increase in a decade, according to a report by economists from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published this week in the journal Health Affairs. “US healthcare spending grew more slowly in 2004 than in the three previous years,” the economists wrote in the report. “Prescription drug spending has been the strongest factor in the slowdown in recent years.” The report attributed slowdown to a rise in the use of generics, the use of mail-order pharmacies, conversion of allergy and indigestion medications to OTC status and safety fears that have reduced consumption of some painkillers. According to the report, total national health care spending rose 7.9 percent in 2004 to $1.9 trillion or an average of $6,280 a person. The 2004 percentage growth was slower than the 8.2 percent growth in 2003 and the 9.1 percent growth in 2002.