(Washington, DC) — Expenditures on prescription drugs increased just 3.2 percent in 2008 – the smallest annual rate of increase in 47 years – according to new data released today by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This historic low in drug spending growth coincides with the expanding use of cost-saving tools developed by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) in private and public programs, the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association (PCMA) said today.

“PBMs have pioneered tools – including incentivizing the use of generic medications, e-prescribing, and mail-service pharmacies – that improve savings, access, and safety for consumers and payers. Since the key to access is affordability, payers and policymakers alike should explore broader use of PBMs’ cost-saving tools and reject approaches that make prescription drugs more expensive,” said PCMA President and CEO Mark Merritt.

The new prescription drug data are highlighted in an article in Health Affairs, “Health Care Spending at a Historic Low in 2008,” and available in depth from CMS. Key data points include:

  • Prescription drug expenditures increased 3.2 percent in 2008, the slowest annual rate of increase in 47 years.
  • Overall health care spending increased 4.4 percent in 2008, a higher rate of increase than prescription drugs.
  • Consumer out-of-pocket expenditures accounted for 21 percent of prescription spending in 2008, down from 31 percent in 1998 and 60 percent in 1988.