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Johannesburg - Medical schemes spent 0.6% less on medicine in 2012, than in the previous year, Mediscor Pharmaceutical Benefit Management (PBM) said on Tuesday.
This was a continuation of the downward trend in expenditure seen in 2011, when spending on medicine decreased 5.1%, the Mediscor Medicine Review (MMR) for 2012 found.
The decrease was despite an average per item increase of 0.2%, said Christo Rademan, managing director of Mediscor PBM which offers an integrated pharmaceutical claims processing system to medical schemes and healthcare provider plans in South Africa.
"This is good news for health care consumers and the medical schemes industry, as it indicates that efforts to control medicine costs are continuing to pay dividends," he said.
A number of "complex" factors had contributed to the decline in spending on medicine, said Rademan.
One of them was a 0.8% decrease in the use of medicines by about one million medical scheme members whose medicine usage was part of the MMR.
Mediscor PBM manager Madelein Bester said a positive trend was consumers' increasing use of less expensive generic medicines, which resulted in significant savings for consumers and medical schemes.
"The MMR indicates that the cost effectiveness of generics is increasingly embraced by funders and ordinary South Africans alike," she said.
However, there were concerns that medicine for the treatment of lifestyle-related illnesses, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, continued to feature prominently in the top therapeutic groups of medicine.
"These diseases are a massive burden on the funding industry. Greater efforts must be made to educate South Africans in this regard, and medical schemes need to meet this challenge urgently," Bester said.
The top 50 products used by medical scheme members were responsible for 21.4% of total expenditure, and 13.1% of the total volume of items in 2012, the MMR found.
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