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Pharmaceutical-embodied technical progress, longevity, and quality of life: drugs as 'Equipment for Your Health'

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  • Frank R. Lichtenberg

    (Graduate School of Business, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027, USA, and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA)

  • Suchin Virabhak

    (Pfizer Pte Ltd. (Singapore), 152 Beach Road, #33-01|04 Gateway East, Singapore 189721)

Abstract

Several econometric studies have concluded that technical progress embodied in equipment is a major source of manufacturing productivity growth. Other research has suggested that, over the long run, growth in the US economy's 'health output' has been at least as large as the growth in non-health goods and services. One important input in the production of health-pharmaceuticals-is even more R&D-intensive than equipment. In this paper, we test the pharmaceutical-embodied technical progress hypothesis-the hypothesis that newer drugs increase the length and quality of life-and estimate the rate of progress. To do this, we estimate health production functions, in which the dependent variables are various indicators of post-treatment health status (such as survival, perceived health status, and presence of physical or cognitive limitations), and the regressors include drug vintage (the year in which the FDA first approved a drug's active ingredient(s)) and indicators of pre-treatment health status. We estimate these relationships using extremely disaggregated-prescription-level-cross-sectional data derived primarily from the 1997 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We find that people who used newer drugs had better post-treatment health than people using older drugs for the same condition, controlling for pre-treatment health, age, sex, race, marital status, education, income, and insurance coverage: they were more likely to survive, their perceived health status was higher, and they experienced fewer activity, social, and physical limitations. The estimated cost of the increase in vintage required to keep a person alive is lower than some estimates of the value of remaining alive for 1 month. One estimate of the cost of preventing an activity limitation is $1745, and the annual rate of technical progress with respect to activity limitations is 8.4%. People consuming newer drugs tend to experience greater increases (or smaller declines) in physical ability than people consuming older drugs. Most of the health measures indicate that the effect of drug vintage on health is higher for people with low initial health than it is for people with high initial health. Therefore in contrast to equipment-embodied technical progress, which tends to increase economic inequality, pharmaceutical-embodied technical progress has a tendency to reduce inequality as well as promote economic growth, broadly defined. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1002/mde.1347
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. in its journal Managerial and Decision Economics.

Volume (Year): 28 (2007)
Issue (Month): 4-5 ()
Pages: 371-392

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Handle: RePEc:wly:mgtdec:v:28:y:2007:i:4-5:p:371-392

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Web page: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/cgi-bin/jhome/7976

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  1. Charles R. Hulten, 1992. "Growth Accounting When Technical Change is Embodied in Capital," NBER Working Papers 3971, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Plutarchos Sakellaris & Daniel J. Wilson, 2001. "The production-side approach to estimating embodied technological change," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2001-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Romer, Paul M, 1990. "Endogenous Technological Change," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages S71-102, October.
  4. repec:umd:umdeco:sakellaris0002 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. William D. Nordhaus, 2002. "The Health of Nations: The Contribution of Improved Health to Living Standards," NBER Working Papers 8818, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bartel, Ann P & Lichtenberg, Frank R, 1987. "The Comparative Advantage of Educated Workers in Implementing New Technology," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(1), pages 1-11, February.
  7. Hulten, Charles R, 1992. "Growth Accounting When Technical Change Is Embodied in Capital," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 82(4), pages 964-80, September.
  8. Adriana Lleras-Muney & Frank R. Lichtenberg, 2002. "The Effect of Education on Medical Technology Adoption: Are the More Educated More Likely to Use New Drugs," NBER Working Papers 9185, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Lichtenberg, Frank R & Siegel, Donald, 1991. "The Impact of R&D Investment on Productivity--New Evidence Using Linked R&D-LRD Data," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 29(2), pages 203-29, April.
  10. Bahk, Byong-Hong & Gort, Michael, 1993. "Decomposing Learning by Doing in New Plants," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(4), pages 561-83, August.
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Cited by:
  1. Chris Papageorgiou & Andreas Savvides & Marios Zachariadis, 2006. "International Medical Technology Diffsion," 2006 Meeting Papers 23, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  2. Chris Papageorgiou & Andreas Savvides & Marios Zachariadis, . "International Medical R&D Spillovers," Departmental Working Papers 2004-03, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
  3. Hsieh, Chee-Ruey & Liu, Ya-Ming & Chang, Chia-Lin, 2011. "Endogenous technological change in medicine and its impact on healthcare costs: evidence from the pharmaceutical market in Taiwan," MPRA Paper 35147, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Frank R. Lichtenberg & Gautier Duflos, 2008. "Pharmaceutical innovation and the longevity of Australians: a first look," NBER Working Papers 14009, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Van Bui & Michael Stolpe, 2010. "The impact of new drug launches on the loss of labor from disease and injury: evidence from German panel data," International Journal of Health Care Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 10(4), pages 315-346, December.
  6. Daron Acemoglu & Joshua Linn, 2003. "Market Size in Innovation: Theory and Evidence From the Pharmaceutical Industry," NBER Working Papers 10038, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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