Rising Fastest Among Kids
FRANKLIN LAKES (Reuters) -
Kids have surpassed senior citizens as the hot ticket in the prescription
While people over 50 are the largest drug market, Medco Health said
in its annual survey released on Thursday that an increasing number
of children are taking prescription drugs, making them the fastest
growing prescription users in 2001.
Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco's
chief medical officer, said more aggressive treatment and diagnosis
of allergies and asthma, as well as higher-cost antibiotics, have
led to higher drug spending for the pediatric market.
Spending on prescription
drugs for infants, children, adolescents and young adults has
increased by 85% during the last five years, said Medco, which
manages prescription drug plans covering 65 million people and
operates a mail order pharmacy.
"We are concerned that
many medical conditions we are treating in children not only require
multiple medications now, but may be precursors to chronic diseases
such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory
ailments--conditions that will require a lifetime of drug therapy,"
According to the 2002
Medco Drug Trend study, which reviewed the prescription drug use
of half a million people under age 19, younger patients are taking
34% more medications than they were five years ago, based on days
For the under-19 age
group, drug trend--the one-year rise in prescription spending
per patient--was 28% in 2001, compared to 23% in the 35-49 age
group, and less than 10% in the 65 and older age group. The rise
in spending was attributed to an increase in the cost of drugs
and the introduction of new and more effective therapies, said
Medco, which is a subsidiary of drug giant Merck & Co. Inc.
Members of Medco's pharmacy
benefits management programs that are over 65, however, take 12
times more medications than younger populations, the company's
survey found. Patients under 19 account for only 5% of drug spending,
While asthma, allergies
and anti-infective drugs were key drivers behind the increased
drug spending, the cost of treating attention deficit-hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) increased by 122% over the past four years.
Spending on proton pump
inhibitors to treat heartburn and other gastrointestinal disorders
in children has increased by 660% over the past five years.
"Some of the issues we
associate with adulthood are moving backwards to children," Epstein
said, noting increased rates of obesity and diabetes in children.
"It's a phenomenon of how American children are living today."
AGGRESSIVE ASTHMA TREATMENT
Epstein said doctors
have become more aggressive in treating asthma over the past 10
years, leading to the increased spending on drugs such as Merck's
Singulair and GlaxoSmithKline Plc.'s Advair. Medco said spending
on treatments for allergies and pediatric asthma increased by
211% over the past five years.
Medco cited National
Center for Health Statistics data that the number of pediatric
emergency room visits has declined, especially in the respiratory
"The paradigm five or
ten years ago for a lot of parents was to wait until the child
wheezes enough to take him to the emergency room," said Epstein,
who noted that using the asthma drugs is more preventative.
Spending on antibiotics
over that period has increased by 42%, but the number of prescriptions
written has declined. The spending increase resulted from doctors
prescribing newer and stronger products that cost more, Epstein
Physicians and parents
have become increasingly concerned that the overuse of antibiotics
diminishes their effectiveness, Epstein said. Also, viruses, such
as the common cold, do not respond to antibiotics.
"Antibiotics are not
for every one and parents don't need to get them every time a
child has a cold," Epstein said.
Reference Source 89