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Benefits and costs of newer drugs: an update


  • Frank R. Lichtenberg

    (Columbia University and National Bureau of Economic Research)


In previous work, we found strong evidence to support the hypothesis that the replacement of older drugs by new drugs resulted in reductions in total medical expenditures. In this study, we update and extend our previous study of the effect of drug age-years since FDA approval-on total medical expenditure, in several respects: (1) the unit of analysis is a medical condition, rather than a prescription; (2) the sample is much larger, including data for 3 years, rather than 1 year; (3) we obtain estimates for the Medicare population as well as for the entire population; and (4) within the Medicare population, we examine the effect of drug age on Medicare expenditure as well as on expenditure by all payers. The estimates indicate that, in the entire population, a reduction in the age of drugs utilized reduces non-drug expenditure 7.2 times as much as it increases drug expenditure. For example, reducing the mean age of drugs used to treat a condition from 15 years to 5.5 years is estimated to increase prescription drug spending by $18 but reduce other medical spending by $129, yielding a $111 net reduction in total health spending. Most of the savings are due to reductions in hospital expenditure ($80) and in physician office-visit expenditures ($24). In the Medicare population, a reduction in the age of drugs utilized reduces non-drug expenditure by all payers (i.e. Medicare and various forms of Medicare supplemental insurance, Medicare for dually eligible individuals and Medicare beneficiaries' out of pocket payments) 8.3 times as much as it increases drug expenditure; it reduces Medicare non-drug expenditure 6.0 times as much as it increases drug expenditure. About two-thirds of the non-drug Medicare cost reduction is due to reduced hospital costs. The remaining third is approximately evenly divided between reduced Medicare home health care cost and reduced Medicare office-visit cost. We also show that Medicare enrollees with private prescription drug coverage tend to use newer drugs than those without such coverage: the mean age of drugs used by Medicare enrollees with private Rx insurance is about 9% lower than the mean age of drugs used by Medicare enrollees without either private or public Rx insurance. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Frank R. Lichtenberg, 2007. "Benefits and costs of newer drugs: an update," Managerial and Decision Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 28(4-5), pages 485-490.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:mgtdec:v:28:y:2007:i:4-5:p:485-490
    DOI: 10.1002/mde.1355

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    Cited by:

    1. Michael D. Bordo & John Landon-Lane, 2014. "Does Expansionary Monetary Policy Cause Asset Price Booms? Some Historical and Empirical Evidence," Central Banking, Analysis, and Economic Policies Book Series, in: Sofía Bauducco & Lawrence Christiano & Claudio Raddatz (ed.),Macroeconomic and Financial Stability: challenges for Monetary Policy, edition 1, volume 19, chapter 3, pages 61-116, Central Bank of Chile.
    2. Dhaval Dave & Henry Saffer, 2012. "Impact of Direct‐to‐Consumer Advertising on Pharmaceutical Prices and Demand," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 79(1), pages 97-126, July.
    3. Rexford E. Santerre, 2011. "National and International Tests of the New Drug Cost Offset Theory," Southern Economic Journal, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 77(4), pages 1033-1043, April.
    4. Michel Bordo & John Lando-Lane, 2013. "Does Expansionary Monetary Policy Cause Asset Price Booms? Some Historical and Empirical Evidence," Working Papers Central Bank of Chile 710, Central Bank of Chile.
    5. Apostolos Tsiachristas† & Ren頇oudriaan & Wim Groot, 2013. "The welfare effects of innovative pharmaceuticals: an international perspective from the Dutch experience," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(9), pages 1219-1226, March.
    6. Frank Auton, 2007. "The Patient As Consumer: The Advertising Of Pharmaceuticals Directly To Consumers Should Be Allowed And Encouraged," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 27(2), pages 64-72, June.
    7. Gaynor Martin & Li Jian & Vogt William B, 2007. "Substitution, Spending Offsets, and Prescription Drug Benefit Design," Forum for Health Economics & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 10(2), pages 1-33, July.
    8. Sherry Glied, 2003. "Health Care Costs: On the Rise Again," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(2), pages 125-148, Spring.
    9. Hernán Jaramillo Salazar & José Manuel Restrepo Abondano & Catalina Latorre Santos, 2003. "Mercado de Medicamentos, Regulación y Políticas Públicas," Borradores de Investigación 004328, Universidad del Rosario.
    10. Stolpe, Michael, 2003. "Ressourcen und Ergebnisse der globalen Gesundheitsökonomie: Einführung und Überblick," Kiel Working Papers 1177, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW Kiel).
    11. repec:mpr:mprres:6332 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Abdülkadi̇r Ci̇van & Bülent Köksal, 2010. "The effect of newer drugs on health spending: do they really increase the costs?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(5), pages 581-595, May.
    13. Law, Michael R. & Grépin, Karen A., 2010. "Is newer always better? Re-evaluating the benefits of newer pharmaceuticals," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 743-750, September.
    14. Pierre-Yves Crémieux & Pierre Ouellette & Patrick Petit, 2007. "Do Drugs Reduce Utilisation of Other Healthcare Resources?," PharmacoEconomics, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 209-221, March.
    15. Rifat A. Atun & Ipek Gurol-Urganci & Desmond Sheridan, 2007. "Uptake And Diffusion Of Pharmaceutical Innovations In Health Systems," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 11(02), pages 299-321.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • L65 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Chemicals; Rubber; Drugs; Biotechnology; Plastics


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