The IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, a multinational health information technology and research company, published The Use of Medicines in the U.S. 2022: Usage and Spending Trends and Outlooks to 2026, a new report that explores trends in the use of and spending on medicine, with an outlook through 2026.
According to the report, health services utilization returned to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021, but has yet to make up for the backlog in missed patient visits, screenings, diagnostics, and new prescription starts.
The report also claims that the use of and spending on medicines in the U.S. are expected to return to pre-pandemic growth trend lines by 2023.
Regarding recent drug utilization trends, prescription drug use reached a record level of 194 billion daily doses in 2021 as new prescription starts for chronic and acute care recovered from the slowdown in 2020. Meanwhile, prescription opioid use fell 48% over the past five years. HIV medications, however, reached 35% more patients at the end of 2021 when compared to the beginning of 2017.
As for drug spend, across all of healthcare, spending on medicines increased 12% to $407 billion due to the availability of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics. The rest of the drug market grew 5% on a net basis from steady net prices, and as the growing impact of biosimilars increased to offset the increased use of brand medications.
Biosimilar introductions are having a larger impact on reducing spending on branded biologics, amounting to $10 billion in savings a year in the last two years. Next-generation biotherapeutics may reach as much as $20 billion in annual sales in 2026, and the offsetting of these prices from biosimilars may grow to become an even more crucial concern.
Biosimilar introductions in the last two years reached half the level of small molecule generic introductions over the past five years, indicating that more biosimilars may soon be coming down the drug development pipeline.
And on the subject of drug development, over 250 new drugs are expected to launch within the next five years and contribute to over $100 billion in new spending, but competition between manufacturers and payer pressure is expected to ensure prices of protected brands remain flat or decline over the next five years. It is theorized that immunology, oncology, and neurology will drive the most growth in spending.
Another trend uncovered in the report is tied to mental health and telehealth.
Pre-pandemic, telehealth made up less than 1% of physician visits, jumping to 15% at the height of pandemic. Now telehealth accounts for 4% of physician visits, significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.
Telehealth does still account for over 20% of diagnosis visits in mental health areas such as depression and ADHD. Mental health diagnosis visits (both virtually and in-person) were up 26% in 2021 when compared to 2019. Also from 2019 to 2021, there was a 50% increase in mental health visits linked to PTSD, and 28% more visits linked to anxiety.