One reason that spending on medications has increased during the last 15 years is that physicians are turning to pharmaceuticals to help patients battle comorbidities, according to a study in Health Affairs. The study relies on data taken from 289,000 patient-encounter records collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not only did visits to physician offices increase 19 percent over that time, but that "drug mentions" increased 59 percent. Drug mentions mean "all new or continued medications ordered, supplied, or administered at the visit, including prescription and nonprescription preparations, immunizations, desensitizing agents, and anesthetics." Increases in drug-mention rates were found for all age groups and all physician specialties except general surgeons, cardiologists, and dermatologists.
The study indicates that physicians were 43 percent more likely to prescribe multiple drugs in 1999 than in 1985.
SOURCE: NATIONAL AMBULATORY MEDICAL CARE SURVEY, 1985 AND 1999, IN HEALTH AFFAIRS 2002;21(4)206–214.