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Rising costs for prescription drugs are straining budgets around the globe.

The 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes the United States, spent $800 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013, a new report finds. That’s a full 20 percent of total health spending.

And the United States spends more than most. One telling data point: The median monthly price of cancer treatment for Medicare patients in the country has doubled in the past decade. It now stands at about $10,000 a month — or $120,000 a year.


Here are some other key findings:

  • The United States spent twice the OECD average on pharmaceuticals purchased at retailers in 2013. The group average was about $500 per person. In the United States, it was $1,026 per person.
  • New, high-cost specialty drugs for an array of diseases are on the way. They’re expected to account for 50 percent or more of pharmaceutical spending growth in the coming years.
  • Total US spending on prescription drugs in 2013 amounted to 2 percent of gross domestic product. That’s the third-highest expenditure among OECD countries.
  • Generics accounted for 84 percent of all prescriptions in the United States in 2013, a larger percentage than in any other OECD country.
  • About 60 percent of the cost of prescription drugs in the country is covered by insurance companies and consumers. The public sector picks up the other 40 percent.