US spending on prescription drugs jumped 13.1% in 2014 to $373.9 billion, marking the highest level since 2001, as figures were swelled by a record spend on new brands, price increases and a lower impact from patent expiries.

According to the IMS Health report Medicine Use and Spending Shifts: A Review of the Use of Medicines in the US in 2014, a record volume of 4.3 billion prescriptions were filled, and the year saw the launch of 42 New Molecular Entities - the largest number in 10 years - with new drugs contributing $20.3 billion to growth, including $11.3 billion from four new hepatitis C treatments. 

2014 also saw the largest number of orphan drugs launched in a single year and, looking forward, the trend looks set to continue, as 42% of the R&D pipeline is now comprised of speciality medicines - up from 33% a decade ago, IMS said. 

Spending growth was also driven by a lesser impact of patent expiries, which came in at $11.9 billion compared to the $29.3 billion at the peak in 2012, while prices for branded products rose an average rate of 13.5% on an invoice basis, or 5%-7% when taking into account off-invoice discounts and rebates.

Interestingly, the report also found that demand for healthcare services dipped despite it being the first year of insurance coverage for millions more people under the Affordable Care Act. By the end of September 2014, the uninsured rate was cut by 5.1%, with 15.7 million people added to the insured population due to the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, Health Insurance Exchanges and the continued economic recovery, it noted.