Prescription drug expenditure in the United States 1960-2020

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that prescription drug expenditure in the United States came to some 335 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. This amount includes only retail drug spending, excluding nonretail. Estimations of drug spending can vary by investigating organization. For the U.S., among the most relevant drug spending calculations are provided by CMS, ASPE (Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation), and pharmaceutical market researcher IQVIA.

High drug prices in the U.S.

The United States is the country with the highest total drug spending and also with the highest per capita pharmaceuticals spending among developed countries. This is mostly connected to higher drug prices in the United States. For example, the price for blockbuster drug Humira was almost three times higher in the United States than in Germany in 2017. But whereas in other countries governments more or less directly control drug prices, the U.S. leaves drug pricing to market competition. As a consequence, the U.S. market is the most profitable for pharmaceutical companies.

Where the money is spent

Nearly half of all Americans have taken at least one prescription medicine within the preceding month. The therapeutic areas where spending is the highest are ‘traditionally’ to be found among antidiabetics, oncologics, autoimmune, and respiratory diseases. Based on number of prescriptions filled, antihypertensives, pain reliever, and mental health drugs are the leading classes.

Prescription drug expenditure in the United States from 1960 to 2020

Loading statistic...
You need to log in to download this statistic
Register for free
Already a member?
Log in
Show detailed source information?
Register for free
Already a member?
Log in

Release date

April 2020


United States

Survey time period

1960 to 2020

Supplementary notes

* Projected.

Statista Accounts: Access All Statistics. Starting from $468 / Year
Basic Account
Get to know the platform

You only have access to basic statistics.

Single Account
The ideal entry-level account for individual users
  • Instant access to 1m statistics
  • Download in XLS, PDF & PNG format
  • Detailed references
$59 $39 / Month *
in the first 12 months
Corporate Account
Full access

Corporate solution including all features.

* All products require an annual contract; Prices do not include sales tax.

Statistics on "Health expenditures in the U.S."

Statista Accounts: Access All Statistics. Starting from $468 / Year
Learn more about how Statista can support your business.