Covid raises drug spending to a record 732 million

The year closed with at least 1,000 million in disbursement, of which 47 million are related to the pandemic. Non-prescription spending is the one that has skyrocketed the most as a result of the virus with 23% year-on-year.

The accumulated spending on drugs and medical supplies skyrocketed during 2020, mainly due to the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The invoice until October in the Region of Murcia reached 732 million euros, according to the latest statistical data from the Ministry of Finance. This is a record figure, the highest in the historical series in the first nine months of that year.

The Community’s public bill to finance pharmaceutical and health product spending, both in hospitals and in the population through prescriptions or other dispensing orders, tends to increase each year due to the aging of the population. But this year the consequences of covid-19 have inevitably been added, which from March to September 2020 left an expense of more than 47 million euros, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Finance.

This expenditure of more than 732 million euros represents an increase of 34% compared to the same period in 2014 (the first year for which there are statistics and which begins the series until September of the current one).

But the covid-19 has made this increase even more intense, until closing the first ten months with a bill that is more than 188 million euros higher than the accounting of six years ago. And that in 2020, the ordinary hospital and Primary Care activity was seriously restricted for a good part of the year to avoid the risk of contagion in visits to health centers or hospitals.

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9.1% more than in 2019

Compared to the last month of October 2019, the year-on-year increase in this spending on drugs and medical supplies already amounted to a notable 9.1%, which translates to more than 67 million in absolute terms. Thus, 47 million were attributable to spending on non-prescription or dispensed health products associated with covid-19 in the Region of Murcia.

In addition, in recent years medicines have been subject to a strict price policy, with continuous and massive drops, but even so it is impossible to contain the escalation of public resources destined for this purpose.

The highest item between January and October 2020 corresponded to spending on pharmacies and health products (prostheses, gauze, catheters, probes …) dispensed with a prescription, which amounted to 329 million euros.

The second largest volume is that of pharmaceutical consumption in hospitals, which was estimated at more than 210 million. And the third, of more than 192 million euros, refers to spending on medicines and health products without a prescription, but co-financed with public funds. This heading includes the aforementioned 47 million derived from assistance against the coronavirus, plus another 145 million that do not include the expense associated with covid-19.

23% variation year-on-year

It is this last non-prescription expense that soared the most with an increase of 23.1% year-on-year variation (between October 2019 and 2020). In addition, prescription spending even increased slightly, as the year-on-year variation stood at 4% more. Despite the confinement of the first months and the fear of the general population of being infected, doctors in the Region also prescribed more drugs. On the other hand, spending on the hospital pharmacy did increase by almost 6 percent, specifically, 5.9% compared to 2019.

If the same projection that has been registered until October is maintained, also taking into account that in November the situation in the Region was more serious due to the large increase in the second wave of the pandemic and hospital pressure, spending on medicines and health products in 2020 could be around or exceed 1,000 million euros, at least some 185 more than those that closed last year, according to the estimates of specialists.

Population aging has a direct impact on the costs of healthcare and pharmaceuticals. The health expenditure of a person over 65 is at least four times higher than the rest of the population.

This is how Alberto Vaquero, professor of Applied Economics at the University of Vigo, considered it a couple of years ago. Hence, the reasonable thing is that the older the population, the more spending on pharmaceuticals.

The invoice associated with the pandemic is added

To the hospital pharmaceutical expenditure, to the disbursement in pharmaceutical and health products for medical prescriptions or dispensing orders and to the expenditure on products without a medical prescription, the Ministry of Finance adds additional information, since August 2020, on the expenditure on non-prescription health products associated with treatment of covid-19 for the purpose of calculating the interannual variation rate, considering the effect of spending on non-prescription health products associated with the pandemic, according to the information communicated by the regional administrations and the units dependent on the Central Administration . Thus, the Region of Murcia is the tenth community with the most spending, led by Andalusia, Catalonia and Madrid (see attached graph).

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