Putting the cost of medicines in context

Release of updated Prescription Medicines: Costs in Context deck.

Holly Campbell
Holly CampbellAugust 4, 2016

Putting the cost of medicines in context.

Discussions about costs are important. No patient should have to worry about whether they can afford the care they need. At the same time, it is important to look at costs across the health care system and not just the share going toward life changing medicines.

Researchers and scientists across the biopharmaceutical industry have dedicated their lives to the search for new treatments and cures for patients. As a result of this perseverance, new therapies are transforming care for patients fighting debilitating diseases like cancer, hepatitis C, high cholesterol and more. In the midst of all this progress, the share of spending on retail medicines remains the same as it was 50 years ago. In fact, government actuaries project the share of health care spending attributable to medicines will continue to grow in line with overall health care cost growth for at least the next decade.  

Our updated Prescription Medicines: Costs in Context explains how competition among brand-name medicines, high generic utilization rates and aggressive tactics by insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to negotiate lower prices all help to keep costs under control. Costs in Context also dives into recent advances in treating devastating diseases, challenges and opportunities for biopharmaceutical companies in the rapidly changing marketplace and policy solutions we need to focus on to continue delivering innovative treatments to patients.   

Key highlights include:

  • The U.S. biopharmaceutical sector supported nearly 4.5 million jobs in 2014, including approximately 854,000 direct jobs, and generated nearly $1.2 trillion in economic output.


  • Retail and non-retail (physician administered) medicines account for a stable share of health care spending.


  • The growth in other health care services will be five times total medicine spending growth through the next decade.



  • Insurers’ own data show medicines are not a primary driver of premium increases.



  • Economics of medicines have changed markedly in recent years.



Learn more about the cost and value of medicines at www.phrma.org/cost.

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