Medicines: Cost in Context

      Cost of Medicines in Perspective

Retail prescription medicines have consistently accounted for just 10 percent of U.S. health care spending and this share will remain stable through the next decade. Spending on prescription medicines has remained a relatively constant share of total spending due to the high rate of generic utilization (more than 4 out of 5 prescriptions are now filled with generic medicines) and competition among brand-name medicines.

When considering the cost of "specialty" medicines, it is important to realize they are used by less than 5 percent of U.S. patients, typically those with severe or rare health conditions. These medicines are often subject to greater cost sharing, which makes them appear to be more expensive than they are, particularly compared to other health care services.


Then and now: Prescription medicines account for the same percentage of health care spending today as they did in 1960 – 10 percent.

  • Spending on Medicines: The Big Picture

  • How Medicines Can Curb Health Care Costs

  • The Challenge of Developing New Treatments and Cures

  • The Power of Medicines: Saving Lives, Building Futures

      Impact on Public Health & Economy

The development of new medicines is essential to shifting the treatment paradigm toward prevention, helping patients avoid expensive hospital visits and long-term care costs. By supporting and encouraging innovation, we can address the biggest cost challenges our health care system faces.

It is essential to have a robust ecosystem that allows companies to recoup the investment made in the development of not just the few medicines that make it to market, but also for the many others that don’t.


If we do nothing to address Alzheimer’s, the costs to all payers for caring for patients with the disease is expected to increase to more than $1.1 trillion in 2050.

      Investment in Innovation

Innovative treatments save lives and offer great hope for patients and their families, but the research and development (R&D) process is long, costly and complex. 


Only 12 percent of drug candidates that enter clinical studies are approved by the FDA for patient use.


    On average it takes 10 years and $2.6 billion to research and develop a new medicine, including the cost of failures.


    Today, more than 7,000 medicines are in development around the world. 70 percent of these treatments are potential first-in-class therapies.


    Since 2000, biopharmaceutical companies have invested more than $550 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $51.1 billion in 2013 alone.

      Value to Patients

Innovative medicines developed by biopharmaceutical companies have been transforming patient care for over a century – helping patients live longer, healthier and more productive lives.

For many patients and their families, research and medicines from the biopharmaceutical sector represent the only chance for survival.


Innovative medicines have helped raise the average U.S. life expectancy from 47 years in 1900 to 78 years today.

  • Since its peak in 1991, the cancer death rate in the U.S. has fallen 20 percent and 2 out of 3 patients diagnosed with cancer are living at least 5 years following diagnosis.

  • New hepatitis C therapies have cure rates above 90 percent and dramatically decrease the burden of the disease on the U.S. health care system and the economy.

  • A short time ago, HIV/AIDS was considered a death sentence. By 2012, the U.S. death rate for HIV/AIDS had dropped nearly 85 percent. Today, it is considered a manageable disease.


Cancer Resources


Hepatitis C Resources


HIV/AIDS Resources


General Resources

Cancer Medicine Resources

Hepatitis C Resources

HIV/AIDS Resources

High Cholesterol Resources