How Much Is the United States Actually Spending on Prescription Drugs?

Panel Explored Stakeholder Perspectives and Debated Estimates of Drug Spending

Baltimore, MD, USA—May 23, 2018—ISPOR, the professional society for health economics and outcomes research, held a session, “When Research Questions Collide: How Much Is the United States Actually Spending on Drugs?” [IP18], this morning at ISPOR 2018 in Baltimore, MD, USA.

Many policy discussions on healthcare costs in the United States focus on controlling spending on prescription drugs with many numbers estimated as the percentage of spend, ranging from 10.1% to 27.7%. Informed policy discussions require a mutual understanding of the data and an estimate that is relevant for both research and policy issues. This panel debated how the share of healthcare spending attributable to drugs should be measured and whether there is a “right” number for policy discussions.

Michael Kleinrock, MA, IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, Plymouth Meeting, PA, USA moderated the session. Panelists included Sean Keehan, MA, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD, USA and Sara Sadownik, MSc, Massachusetts Health Policy Commission, Boston, MA, USA.

Sean Keehan provided the government agency perspective that seeks to quantify healthcare spending for the entire US population. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates drug spending at 10.1%. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimate for drug spending is 21.0%. Sara Sadownik brought forth the perspective of an individual US state that looks to understand their state’s healthcare spending trends. The Massachusetts Health Policy Commission estimate for drug spend is 17.0%. And Michael Kleinrock shared the health plan perspective. The America’s Health Insurance Plans estimates of drug spending range from 22.0% to 27.7%.

Additional information on ISPOR 2018 can be found here. Released presentations from the conference can be found here. Interested parties can follow news and developments from the conference on social media using the hashtag #ISPORBaltimore.


ISPOR, the professional society for health economics and outcomes research (HEOR), is an international, multistakeholder, nonprofit dedicated to advancing HEOR excellence to improve decision making for health globally. The Society is the leading source for scientific conferences, peer-reviewed and MEDLINE®-indexed publications, good practices guidance, education, collaboration, and tools/resources in the field.
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