Objective: The objective of this study was to determine whether there is a measurable health return associated with high pharmaceutical consumption in a sample of developed countries.
Design and setting: The study focused on the production of health, disaggregating healthcare into pharmaceuticals and other healthcare. We controlled for wealth and lifestyle factors. The sample consisted of 21 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries and the measure of pharmaceutical consumption used was the best available for a large number of OECD countries. We proxied health with life expectancies at birth, at age 40, and age 60.
Main outcome measures and results: Pharmaceutical consumption had a positive and statistically significant effect on remaining life expectancy at age 40 and 60 years (significant at the 0.10 and 0.05 level, respectively, based on a 2-tailed test), although the effect on life expectancy at birth was small and not significant. Sensitivity analysis showed that these results were generally robust. A significant effect of pharmaceutical consumption on infant mortality was not demonstrated and results of the infant mortality model were very sensitive to small changes.
Conclusion: Increased pharmaceutical consumption helps improve mortality outcomes, especially for those at middle age and older.