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A spending slowdown for psychiatric meds?

February 1, 2012
by Nick Zubko, Associate Editor
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With the number of commercials interrupting your nightly TV viewing, it’s hard to believe that psychiatric meds are anything but a “growth industry.” But that’s not really the case anymore, at least according to new research from Thomson Reuters and SAMHSA.

Published in the January issue of Psychiatric Services, a new study claims that the national annual growth rate for psychiatric drug expenditures (per patient) declined from 18.5 percent in the period between 1997 and 2001 to 6.3 percent between 2001 and 2008.

Researchers attribute the decline to lower pricing that resulted from the introduction of many generic alternatives, including those for popular antidepressants. The research also revealed a few more interesting statistics:

  • Generics grew from 36% of psychiatric prescriptions filled in 1997 to 70% in 2008;
  • The number of new users of psychiatric medications slowed during the 11-year period of the study; and
  • Growth in users of psychiatric drugs declined from 7% (1997-2001) to 2% (2001 to 2008).

"The high growth in spending during the late 1990s and into the early years of the next decade appears to have been a temporary phenomenon," says Tami Mark, PhD, the paper's lead author and senior director for Thomson Reuters.

Mark says the “phenomenon was fueled by the introduction new medications still on patent. So while there is a positive aspect of more lower-priced medications becoming available, she also believes that there could be a “damaging effect.”

"Pharmaceutical companies appear to be slowing [R&D] on new psychiatric drugs,” adds Mark. “It will be important to watch this trend closely to ensure that new psychiatric therapies are continuing to populate the drug development pipeline."



Hmm, this is an interesting development. While the drive toward increased peer services might be behind decreased utilization, it's not good to hear that pharma companies are investing less in R&D. There's still a lot of work to be done, as the antipsychotics leave much to be desired.

Nick Zubko

Associate Editor

Nick Zubko



Nick Zubko is associate editor of Behavioral Healthcare.

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