Report: US spending on prescription drugs drops for first time in 2012

According to a report released Thursday by the IMS Health, spending on prescription drugs in the US fell 1 percent in 2012 to $325.8 billion, marking the first decline in the measure since prices of medicines began being tracked in 1957. Adjusting for population, per capita spending fell 3.5 percent to $898.

IMS research director Michael Kleinrock said "the largest driver of this slowdown was the unprecedented cluster of very popular and effective medicines losing patent protections and facing generic competition at the same time." New generics to products including Pfizer's Lipitor (atorvastatin), Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Plavix (clopidogrel) and AstraZeneca's Seroquel (quetiapine) contributed $28.9 billion to last year's reduction in medicine spending.

The report suggested that the decline in prescription drug spending was also driven by some less predictable factors, such as a weaker-than-usual cough, cold and influenza season. Kleinrock noted that the drop marks the beginning of what is expected to be several years in which US spending on prescription drugs will grow more slowly than overall healthcare costs.

Earlier this year, a report from Express Scripts indicated that spending on traditional prescription drugs among the commercially insured population in the US fell 1.5 percent in 2012.

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