Annual increase in health care spending is smaller--but still exceeds cost-of-living
For the year 2007, health care spending on prescription drugs rose "only" 4.9 percent in 2007, after averaging 9.4 percent for the past six years. Total health care spending increased only 6.1 percent for the year, according to Medicare and Medicaid Services data. It accounted for more than 16 percent of the gross domestic product (that is, all domestic goods and services measured in our economy) and was about triple the rate of increase of the cost of living.
Perhaps drug spending will fall somewhat further this year because of "voluntary standards" adopted by the pharmaceutical industry to prohibit gifts to doctors. In 2002 the industry adopted "guidelines" prohibiting large gifts and effective January 1 it prohibited the gifting of pens and other small gifts. Many doctors think the new rule is "much ado about nothing", while other doctors consider the ban a small step in the right direction. See, for example, Dr. Robert Goodman's non-profit organization "No Free Lunch", developed to combat the pervasive influence of pharmaceutical sales on the medical industry.
Neither the 2002 standards nor the 2009 standards address the $16 billion dollars of drug samples given away to doctors, or the bulk of the $6 billion dollars worth of annual "detailing"--an industry term for sales activities such as meal-time presentations and restaurant dinner "seminars", provided there is some form of educational presentation to the doctor or his staff. In addition, the guidelines still allow for payments to doctors as "consultants". Recent disclosures have shown that many doctors collect tens and even hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed "consulting fees" from drug manufacturers and that these payments may have distorted medical care and use of pharmaceuticals. Prior website entries have explained the impact of these payments, for example, on the use of anti-depressants and anti-seizure medications for off-label treatment of juveniles.