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Data: AJHP; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Spending on prescription drugs rose even during the pandemic, when many people delayed care. And it will probably continue its rise this year.

Why it matters: Prescription spending is yet another source of financial uncertainty for hospitals hit hard by plummeting volumes last year.

Details: Overall drug spending in the U.S. rose $535.3 billion, or by nearly 5%, between 2019 and 2020, according to the latest trends report from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

  • The biggest increases came in home health care (13%), mail-order pharmacies (9%) and clinics (8%).
  • Drug spending at hospitals, however, dropped by about 5%.

What's next: Hospital and health system pharmacies "should expect to continue suffering from drug expenditure whiplash in 2021 and beyond," said the report's lead author Eric Tichy, who is the division chairman of supply chain management at Mayo Clinic, Rochester.

  • The report says prescription drug spending will likely grow by 4%-6% this year, again with far higher spending outside hospitals.
  • The study attributed most of the growth to increased utilization, and said a large pipeline of expensive new drugs, including cancer treatments and speciality medications, could drive costs higher in the future.

Go deeper

Updated Jul 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

U.S. economy grew at a 6.5% rate last quarter, missing expectations

Contractors work on a home under construction. (Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The U.S. economy grew at an annualized 6.5% rate last quarter, the government said Thursday — slower than the 8.4% economists expected.

Why it matters: It came as the economy made strides toward further reopening, vaccinations rolled out and government stimulus bolstered spending. But supply crunches held the pace of growth back.

Jul 29, 2021 - Health

Infrastructure deal's health care winners and losers

Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, center, speaks during a news conference in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on July 28, 2021. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Providers can breathe a sigh of relief: Congress isn't planning on repurposing unspent money from the pandemic provider relief fund, at least not yet.

Driving the news: The White House finally reached an infrastructure deal with a bipartisan group of senators yesterday, paid for in part with health care policies.

Updated 33 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Concerns grow over CDC's isolation guidelines — Experts warn of more COVID-19 variants after Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: America's vaccination drive runs out of gas — Puerto Rico expands booster shot requirements.
  3. Politics: Joint Chiefs chair Gen. Mark Milley tests positive for COVID-19 — Vivek Murthy calls SCOTUS vaccine mandate block "a setback for public health."
  4. Economy: Report: World's 10 richest men doubled wealth during pandemicAmerica's labor shortage is bigger than the pandemic.
  5. States: America struggles to keep schools open — Youngkin ends mandates for masks in schools and COVID vaccinations for state workers.
  6. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — French parliament passes COVID vaccine passport legislation.
  7. Variant tracker