Americans Scale Back on Drug Spending and Office Visits

A report issued by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics shows that Americans cut back on their prescription drug use and took fewer trips to the doctor in 2011.

According to the report, The Use of Medicines in the United States: Review of 2011, the number of prescriptions written for patients decreased by 1.1% compared with 2010, and doctor visits dropped by 4.7%.

Two factors contributed to the decline of prescription drug use. In 2011, more patients opted for generic versions of the medications they were prescribed. According to IMS, 80% of dispensed prescriptions were generics, and generic spending grew by $5.6 billion. The drop in office visits and non-emergency room hospital admissions also meant that patients were not being issued as many prescriptions.

Older Americans especially used fewer medications. Prescriptions for patients age 65 or older decreased by 3.1% last year. The largest declines were in medications to treat high blood pressure and osteoporosis.

While most Americans were scaling back on their prescription drug use, the opposite was true for patients age 19 to 25. Among this age bracket, prescriptions increased by 2% compared with 2010. The largest increases were in medications used to treat depression and ADHD. Authors cite the health care law as the reason for this change since adult children under 26 are now allowed to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan.

Although office visits declined, trips to the ED increased by 7.4% in 2011. The authors of the report say the increase is linked to the loss of health insurance resulting from long-term unemployment.

To view the report in its entirety, download a PDF copy at



Sign up to receive industry news and events from MD News.

* indicates required