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Alive and Working: How Access to New Drugs has Slowed the Growth in America's Disability Rates

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Publication Date: October 2008

Publisher(s): Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. Center for Medical Progress

Author(s): Frank R. Lichtenberg

Topic: Health (Health care financing)
Health (Pharmaceutical services)
Health (Health services administration)

Keywords: insurance; social security; disability; drugs

Coverage: United States


The following report examines whether innovation in one form of medical treatment, prescription drugs, has helped reduce the growth in disability rates. Specifically, the report studies patterns in the dispensing of prescription drugs in forty-nine of the fifty states from 1995 to 2004, using data on Medicaid prescriptions in thirty therapeutic groups, which account for virtually all Medicaid medicines dispensed. The data includes the name of the drug and the year in which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its active ingredient, what we call the drug's "vintage." For instance, Zocor's active ingredient, simvastatin, was approved in 1991, making 1991 the drug's vintage.

This study concludes that the vintage of drugs used by a state's residents, to be specific, how recently those drugs' active ingredient received FDA approval, qualifies as an additional factor in determining the size of that state's disability rolls. The study found that states in which the difference between average vintage of Medicaid prescriptions in 1995 and average vintage in 2004 was the largest, these being states in which pharmaceutical innovations were adopted quickly, had the smallest increases in disability rates.


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