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Originally published November 8 2010

Higher US drug spending has not improved health

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Healthcare spending in the U.S. is higher than that of most other developed nations -- totaling roughly $7,290 per person -- but the added costs have not translated into better care or quality of life. According to two new studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, higher spending on drugs does not equal better health, and can actually spur doctors to over-prescribe drugs to patients who do not need them.

Yuting Zhang and her colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health evaluated drug spending and prescribing practices at various care facilities across the country. Though there were observable differences in spending amounts, Zhang and her team did not observe a connection between higher spending and improved care.

"[The study] contradicts the idea that high spending leads to better prescription practices," she explained in a statement. "Higher spending can be justified if it's for drugs that are necessary and appropriate and improve patients' health." But much of the time, higher spending actually causes more problems.

Zhang and her team found that in places where per capita medical spending was higher -- and particularly in government-funded medical programs like Medicare -- doctors were more prone to prescribe dangerous, high-risk drugs to patients. And in a second study conducted at the University of Michigan Medical School, Dr. Vanakn Shahinian and colleagues found that when Medicare spending was reduced, doctors prescribed drugs less frequently and more carefully.

High drug spending is also a result of fraudulent billing practices used by drug companies. NaturalNews recently covered the story of Louisiana's lawsuit against 18 different drug companies for robbing the state's Medicaid fund of million of dollars (, and 27 other states have also had to battle drug company fraud as well.

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