Americans pay more for drugs, but don't live longer

Americans spend twice that of other developed countries on drugs, but don't live longer.

An annual report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development compares spending on health care and outcomes for its 34-member nations. Here are some of the findings:

  • The U.S. spends twice the average annually on pharmaceuticals.
  • Health care spending is 16.5 percent of GDP, the highest of all the organization's nations and 2.5 times more than the average.
  • In 1970, average life expectancy in the United States was a year above the average. Now it is almost two years behind the average, at 78.8 years versus 80.5.
  • Although the growth of U.S. health care spending has slowed, high-priced medicines will continue to drive up costs in coming years.

Two factors drive spending on pharmaceuticals: more Americans than ever take prescription drugs and companies have been hiking prices.

Many of the drugs in use are for largely avoidable conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, acid reflux and high cholesterol. Americans did better than average when it came to smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, but topped the list as the most obese nation.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.