NPR logo Kids Become Prime Growth Market For Prescription Drugs

Health Inc.

Kids Become Prime Growth Market For Prescription Drugs

Children are the new frontier for sales of prescription drugs.

Growth in children's use of drugs outpaced increases for all other age groups last year, says an annual report on prescription drug trends from Medco, a big manager of drug benefits.

A quarter of insured children took a prescription medicine to treat some kind of chronic condition last year, Medco says. Some big categories include drugs to treat asthma and ADHD. Overall, spending on prescription drugs for kids increased by 10.8 percent last year — more than triple the amount for seniors.

Many children now take medicines more typically prescribed for grown-ups, such as cholesterol-fighters, potent heartburn remedies and diabetes treatments.

"All these adult drugs are popping up in children, which is really disturbing," Medco's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Epstein said in a media brieing about the report. Childhood obesity is a common thread.

Separately, Medco's data confirm a report from the AARP earlier this week on big price increases for brand-name drugs. Medco said prices increased 9.2 percent last year. That's the biggest move up this decade, the company said.

David Snow, Medco's CEO, said the big price jump has a lot to do with the looming tax on pharmaceutical companies to help pay for health overhaul. "No one is going to absorb this kind of cost without passing it on to the ultimate" customer, he said of the drugmakers' price increases.