Rx Drug Sales Hit by Slumping Economy

Sales of prescription drugs are growing at the slowest rate in more than a decade, reflecting the effects of a slowing economy and increased out-of-pocket costs to consumers. According to the healthcare research firm IMS Health, prescription volume for the first 5 months of this year grew by just 1.5%, the slowest growth rate since 1996. Volume actually declined in April by 0.2%, and in May by 0.1%. Forecasters see a further decline when June data become available later this month, resulting in negative growth for the entire second quarter, which hasn’t happened since 1994.

Sales of prescription drugs are growing at the slowest rate in more than a decade, reflecting the effects of a slowing economy and increased out-of-pocket costs to consumers. According to the healthcare research firm IMS Health, prescription volume for the first 5 months of this year grew by just 1.5%, the slowest growth rate since 1996. Volume actually declined in April by 0.2%, and in May by 0.1%. Forecasters see a further decline when June data become available later this month, resulting in negative growth for the entire second quarter, which hasn’t happened since 1994.

Rising out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs coupled with increased costs of food and gasoline are causing consumers to curtail spending on medicines, economists say. The average insurance plan copay for a preferred drug has risen 67%, to $25, in the last 7 years. The average worker’s out-of-pocket cost for family health insurance premiums was $3,281 last year, up nearly 84% since 2001. One result, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, is that consumers are cutting back or eliminating spending on prescription drugs. The poll shows that 23% of patients did not have a prescription filled last year because of cost, up from 20% in 2005, and 19% either split pills or skipped doses, up from 16% in 2005.