Increase in prescription spending slows in 2005

There’s a report out stating that the amount of money spent on prescription drugs has slowed somewhat in 2005. Good news for employers and employees, and bad news for Big Pharma. The report suggests that the slowdown is due in part to the controversy over the CV complications of COX-2 inhibitors. While Bextra and Vioxx accounted for some $2.6 billion in sales in 2004, I don’t know how accurate this assertion is: Celebrex is still on the market and undoubtedly picked up some of the COX-2 slack.

Overall, sales only increased 5.4% in 2005, down from an 8.5% increase in 2004. This data comes from Medco (the people behind the PAID PBM, one of the largest prescriptions insurers in the country), and their numbers cover a wide cross-section of the market, so they’re probably representative of the industry as a whole. Big jumpers on terms of dollars spent were sleep aids: Lunesta and Ambien leading the pack, probably due in large part to direct-to-consumer advertising.

Curiosity got the better of me, and I did a little research, and here are the drugs that have either come off patent in 2006, or will in the next few months. The numbers in front are where the drugs listed stand on the top 200 list* for US sales:

  • #2: Zocor
  • #6: Zoloft
  • #21: Pravachol
  • #35: Allegra
  • #44: Flonase
  • Total sales: $13 billion

I suspect that we’ll see a continuing downward trend when the numbers are released for next year. These drugs are some of Big Pharma’s biggest hitters in terms of overall sales, and the total revenues for COX-2 inhibitors don’t even compare to what is being lost in 2006. Great news for consumers and employers. Newer medications could pick up some of the slack, but super costly niche drugs like Humira and other monoclonals will never pack the revenue punch that widely-used statins, allergy meds, and SSRIs do.

* All numbers are from 2004, which is the most recent year for which data is available.

[tags]Prescription spending, COX-2 inhibitors, consumer spending, medicine[/tags]

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