Key findings are:
Prescription drug spending for behavioral conditions rose 77 percent between 2000 and 2003 due to both increased costs and increased use of these medications.
In 2003, spending on behavioral medications to treat children overtook both the antibiotic and asthma categories, which are traditionally high-use categories in pediatric medicine.
The number of children on behavioral medications has jumped more than 20 percent between 2000 and 2003, outpaced only by the increase of children on drugs to treat gastrointestinal conditions, which increased by nearly 28 percent.
Among the largest increases were medications primarily used to treat attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) — where spending increased by 183 percent for children overall, and by 369 percent increase for children under age 5. Utilization in preschoolers was up 49 percent from 2000 to 2003.
Spending on antidepressants for children grew 25 percent, while use of these drugs rose 27 percent between 2000 and 2003. A review of 2004 data shows that of the children on at least one prescription medication in the first quarter of this year, the number of children using antidepressants increased by 15 percent over the first three months of 2003.
The number of children on medications to treat severe behavioral conditions related to autism and conduct disorders increased by more than 60 percent from 2000 to 2003, while spending on these drugs rose 142 percent in the pediatric group. Among children ages 5 through 9, utilization was up 85 percent, while spending in this category grew 174 percent.
Although children continue to predominantly use antibiotics, allergy and asthma drugs, the rate of increase in utilization and cost for these categories has been more moderate over the past four years than for behavioral medications; antibiotics showed no change in utilization and a 24 percent increase in spending; the use of allergy treatments increased 3 percent, while spending decreased by 7 percent; and asthma medications showed a 12 percent increase in utilization and a 24 percent rise in costs.
One other interesting snippet:
Surprisingly, the average unit cost per child per day is more than 60 percent higher than that of seniors. Although children take fewer medications than seniors, medications used by children have the highest average cost — $2.12 per day for children versus $1.29 per day for seniors.