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Pharmaceutical channel distribution by U.S. spending 2017-2019

In the United States, approximately 511 billion U.S. dollars was spent on medicines in 2019. Spending in retail outlets and mail order services accounted for a 70 percent share, with the other 30 percent spent in institutional channels such as hospitals, clinics, and long-term care facilities.

The growing market of online pharmacies

With sales revenues totaling 144 billion U.S. dollars in 2019, chain pharmacies continue to contribute the largest share of spending in the pharmaceutical market. CVS Health was the leading pharmacy in the United States based on prescription revenue, generating around 109 billion U.S. dollars in 2019. The popularity of mail service pharmacies has grown in recent years: spending in this channel increased by around 20 billion U.S. dollars between 2017 and 2019. The worldwide online pharmacy market is forecast to be worth 128 billion U.S. dollars in 2023.

Finding a cure for high prescription prices

Medications that are prescribed by primary care physicians can be bought at chain and independent pharmacies that are both regional and national. Prices differ between pharmacies, and patients are often advised to shop around and compare prices to get the best deal for their prescriptions. Shopping online is one way to help reduce costs, and another is to ask for the generic versions of drugs – these contain the same active ingredients as brand name drugs and enter the market once key patents expire.

Channel distribution of U.S. pharmaceutical spending from 2017 to 2019

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Release date

August 2020


United States

Survey time period

2017 to 2019

Supplementary notes

Spending is based on IQVIA National Sales Perspectives and is not adjusted for estimates of off-invoice discounts and rebates. Includes prescription-bound products including insulin products and excluding other products such as OTC. IQVIA routinely updates its national audits, which may result in changes to previously reported market size and growth rates.
* Retail channels.
** Institutional channels.

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Statistics on "U.S. pharmaceutical industry"

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