Health warning

OECD Observer

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The US was the highest per capita drug spender in 2003, at more than US$700 per person, followed by France at just over $600, and Canada and Italy at about $500 each.

At the other end of the scale, both Mexico and Turkey spent around a third of the OECD average. Spending on drugs–which does not include those pharmaceuticals consumed in hospitals–now accounts for around 18% of all spending on health. This share tops 20% in France, Spain and Italy.

Spending on pharmaceuticals is rising in OECD countries, according to the latest edition of OECD Health Data. In 2003, drug spending topped more than $450 billion–up by nearly a third in real terms on average since 1998. In fact, with the emergence of new and revolutionary drugs, the increase in pharmaceutical spending has outpaced total health expenditure in most OECD countries–in the US and Australia spending on drugs grew more than twice as fast as total health expenditure between 1998 and 2003.

Some 60% of spending on drugs is paid for by the public purse, and OECD countries have adopted a mix of tools to try to contain the rise. Public coverage of spending on drugs is lowest as a proportion of total spending in the US, Canada and Mexico.

OECD Health Data 2005 is available in a multilingual version on CD-ROM and on SourceOECD. For more information, visit .

©OECD Observer No 250, July 2005

Economic data


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