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Psychiatric Medication Spending Growth Slows, According to New Thomson Reuters Research

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The national growth rate for psychiatric medication spending has declined significantly, according to a new study conducted by researchers from Thomson Reuters (Healthcare) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

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The paper, which appears in the January 2012 issue of Psychiatric Services, underlines falling prices of psychiatric medications as one of the key contributors that has enabled the annual growth rate of psychiatric drug expenditures per patient to dip from 18.5 percent from 1997–2001 to 6.3 percent from 2001–2008. The decline in average prices was driven, in turn, by the entry of generic products—particularly generic antidepressants. Generics grew from 36% of psychiatric prescriptions filled in 1997 to 70% in 2008.

The number of new users of psychiatric medications also slowed during the 11–year study period. The growth in users of psychiatric drugs declined from 7% (1997–2001) to 2% (2001–2008).

"Employers and insurers have been concerned with the rate of increase in psychiatric drug costs.  As a result, they have implemented measures to control the cost of psychiatric medication prescriptions, such as step therapy, tiered payment, and other proactive cost-control measures," said Tami Mark, Ph.D., the paper's lead author and Senior Director, Thomson Reuters. "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 fueled by the introduction of new medications still on patent as well as by the rising use of those medications."

Data were compiled for the report from the Thomson Reuters MarketScan® Commercial Claims and Encounters Database, which provided private insurance claims records from approximately 30 million covered individuals. Information about prescription drug spending came from claims for prescription drugs that were filled through retail and mail-order pharmacies. Additional data came from SAMHSA spending estimates and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

"Although the availability of lower-priced generic medication is good news, there may also be a damaging effect," Mark said. "Pharmaceutical companies appear to be slowing research and development on new psychiatric drugs. This may be related to the substantial penetration of generic alternatives and cost-containment policies surrounding branded products. It will be important to watch this trend closely to ensure that new psychiatric therapies are continuing to populate the drug development pipeline."

About the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

SAMHSA is a public health agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that was established in 1992. The mission of the funding agency is to reduce the impact of mental and substance use disorders on America's communities. The agency provides leadership in the provision of behavioral health services to improve the quality and availability of prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. It also supports States, Territories, Tribes, communities, and local organizations through competitive grant and contract programs.  Information about the agency and its strategic initiatives is available at

About Thomson Reuters

Thomson Reuters is the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. We combine industry expertise with innovative technology to deliver critical information to leading decision makers in the financial, legal, tax and accounting, healthcare and science and media markets, powered by the world's most trusted news organization. With headquarters in New York and major operations in London and Eagan, Minnesota, Thomson Reuters employs more than 55,000 people and operates in over 100 countries. For more information, go to

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