STAT+: U.S. spending on pharmaceuticals jumped 12% in 2021, fueled by costs of Covid-19 vaccines and therapies

Out-of-pocket costs paid by patients rose $4 billion, or 5.3%, last year to $79 billion, according to a new analysis by IQVIA.

Thanks to Covid-19 vaccines and therapies, U.S. spending on pharmaceuticals rose 12% in 2021 as use reached record levels and new prescriptions for acute and chronic care largely recovered from the slowdown seen during the pandemic, according to a new analysis.

Meanwhile, out-of-pocket costs paid by patients hit $79 billion, a $4 billion rise from the year before and the same level seen in 2018 after two years of declining costs. Overall, these costs were relatively low — less than $20 per prescription — but about 1% of all prescriptions filled, or 64 million, ran patients $125, underscoring ongoing barriers to affordability. In fact, 81 million prescriptions were not filled last year.

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