Medco: Drug usage on the rise again

Drug usage, which dipped during the recession, appears to be on the rise again, according to Medco's new drug trend report. The drug use gauge provides to hospital administrators a clearer picture of what kind of medical conditions might drive admissions patterns in the future, and also suggests more patients may be able to pay for their healthcare, as many shun filling their prescriptions during leaner times.

The annual report shows a 3.7 percent increase in spending on drugs in 2010, about the same as 2009. However, the 2.1 percent increase in drug usage was the biggest jump since 2005. Most of the latter jump was attributed to medications to control chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Overall drug costs rose 1.6 percent, although much of that was moderated by the use of generics. By contrast, the costs of brand name drugs rose 9.4 percent.

The costs of drugs to treat cancer rose more dramatically than others, as they were up 11.5 percent. Gleevec, for instance, a drug that commonly is used for treating leukemia patients, rose in cost by 16.7 percent.

For more information:
- here's the Medco report
- read this Wall Street Journal Health Blog post