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The life expectancy gains from pharmaceutical drugs: a critical appraisal of the literature

  • Paul Grootendorst
  • Emmanuelle Piérard
  • Minsup Shim

Several studies suggest that, on the basis of life expectancy (LE) regressions, new pharmaceutical drugs are responsible for some of the marked gains in LE observed over the last 50 years. We critically appraise these studies. We point out several modeling issues, including disentangling the contribution of new drugs from advances in disease management, changes in the distribution of health care and other confounding factors. We suggest that the studies estimates of pharmaceutical productivity are implausibly high. Some of the models have very large forecast errors. Finally, the models that we replicated were found to be sensitive to seemingly innocuous changes in specification. We conclude that it is difficult to estimate the bio-medical determinants of LE using aggregate data. Analyses using individual level data or perhaps disease specific data will likely produce more compelling results.

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File URL: http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/sedap/p/sedap221.pdf
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Paper provided by McMaster University in its series Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers with number 221.

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Length: 26 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mcm:sedapp:221
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  1. James W. Shaw & William C. Horrace & Ronald J. Vogel, 2005. "The Determinants of Life Expectancy: An Analysis of the OECD Health Data," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 768-783, April.
  2. Pierre-Yves Crémieux & Marie-Claude Meilleur & Pierre Ouellette & Patrick Petit & Martin Zelder & Ken Potvin, 2005. "Public and private pharmaceutical spending as determinants of health outcomes in Canada," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 14(2), pages 107-116.
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