More Drugs vs. Better Care. Why Not Both?

  • by: |
  • 10/27/2005

New data from IMS Health projects that prescription drug sales will “soar” in the United States next year, fueled in part by a $400 billion expansion of the nation’s Medicare program. IMS forecasts that the U.S. drug market, which already accounts for 43 percent of global pharmaceutical sales, is projected to grow between 8 percent and 9 percent in 2006. Not surprisingly, the media stories have neglected to mention why — or why this is a good thing for the future of the American consumer and the American health care system. The answer is simple — and simply crucial to the macro debate: people with prescription drug coverage use more medicines than those without. Ergo, more people covered equals more medicines sold. Common sense, right? And they’re being sold for the right purpose, because prescription drugs are not an impulse purchase. Despite what politicians, pundits, and so-called advocates would like you to believe, poll after poll of physicians shows again and again that doctors are not prescribing medicines at the request of advertising-bedazzled patients. That is just not true. Period. Docs are prescribing medicines because their patients have conditions that call for pharmaceutical intervention. But the media reports of the IMS data don’t mention any of this and would lead you to believe the opposite. All the reporters seem to be interested in is volume and costs — making it a political rather than a public health story. But, alas, they fail to put either volume or cost into the proper perspective. Nowhere do they explain the underlying rationale that it is far cheaper to treat a chronic condition such as hypertension or diabetes than to pay for the acute manifestations of these diseases (heart attacks, strokes, amputations, etc.) And how do you keep a chronic condition from becoming acute? That’s right, through appropriate use of … medication. That’s the raison d’etre of Medicare Modernization. More drugs, appropriately prescribed and used as directed lower health care costs. And that’s the rest of the story.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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