Pills scattered on $100 bills Immunology, oncology and neurology are predicted to drive the most growth in drug spending over the next five years. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Prescription drug use in the U.S. has returned to pre-pandemic levels, and cost trends for medications were flat or declining in 2021, according to a new study. However, out-of-pocket (OOP) costs to consumers continued to increase, the researchers found.

The report, by industry consulting firm IQVIA, said that prescription drug use reached a record level of 194 billion daily doses in 2021, as health services utilization continues to rebound after the worst months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, spending on prescription medications was up 12% in 2021, at $407 billion—in part because of the utilization of COVID vaccines and related drugs. The analysis said that spending on medicines will return to pre-pandemic growth trend lines by 2023.

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