Growth in spending on prescription drugs slowed in the first three months of this year, due partly to greater use of generics, according to a new survey by the St. Louis-based pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts.
The survey, released Monday, found an 11.3% increase in drug spending in the first quarter, compared with a 16.9% rate in the same quarter the year before.
Utilization of many widely used drugs increased at double-digit rates in the first quarter of this year, including medications for blood pressure (up 10.6%), high cholesterol (up 14.1%) and diabetes (up 14.5%), the company says in a release.
But higher utilization was mitigated by greater use of generics. The company says generics made up 47% of all prescription claims it processed in the first quarter 2003, up from 43% a year earlier.
Express Scripts says the trend toward generics will continue as patents expire on many brand name drugs. During the next five years, it says, patents will expire on drugs representing $32.3 billion in U.S. sales last year.
This year alone, the company says the ACE inhibitor Monopril and the cancer drug Nolvadex are scheduled for patent expiration, and the 2004 patent expiration list includes the antibiotic Cipro and the anti-depressant Celexa.