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First time ever - consumers spend less on drugs as generics hit the market

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The growing prevalence of cheap generic drugs is responsible for the first ever decline in pharmaceutical spending over the past sixty years. As more drugs lose patent protection and become eligible for copying by other manufacturers, the cost of medications drop.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Industry insiders call it the "patent cliff" referring to the moment when brand=name drugs lose patent protection and inexpensive substitutes enter the market. Cost conscious consumers quickly turn to the substitutes, leaving the brand names behind.

This is excellent for consumers who are routinely strapped for prescription medications that can sometimes cost more than the visit to the doctor.

Among those stocking up on the generics are also hospitals and pharmacies, which saves insurers money too.

Last year's drug bill for the United States was down 1 percent to $325.8 billion. This is the first decline since records were kept beginning in 1957. With inflation and population growth factored into the calculation, the decline in drug spending came to 3.5 percent. Overall, those savings means the average person spent just $898 on drugs last year, a $33 savings.

This decline may continue, albeit at a slow pace, as new drugs enter the generic realm. Naturally, pharmaceutical companies loathe the patent cliff, as it kills profits, but this also inspires them to develop new and improved versions of drugs.

Another factor in the spending decline might not be because drugs are getting cheaper. Analysts say the decline is due in part to people delaying or forgoing treatment because of the expense of medication. Bolstering this theory is a correlating drop in doctor visits.

Unfortunately, the cost of healthcare in the United States is so great that many people go without treatment. This is in spite of the fact that the United States has some of the best medical care in the world to offer - but it is not accessible to all.

In the industrialized world, the United States spends the most per capita and receives only a mediocre quality of care when compared to other western, industrialized nations.

Still, the increase in available generics is a boon to patients who have been waiting for cheaper substitutes for vital medications.

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