South Korea’s drug costs have steadily increased in recent years, due to expanded insurance coverage for serious illnesses, population aging, and rise in chronic diseases, government data showed.
According to the Health Insurance Review & Assessment Service ’s 2016 claims for insurance-covered drugs, the HIRA’s drug costs rose 4.23 percent a year on average from to 15.42 trillion won ($14.22 billion) in 2016 from 13.74 trillion won in 2012.
The drug costs in 2016 accounted for 25.7 percent of the total medical expenses of 60.13 trillion won in the year.
By the amount of insurance claims, claims for antihypertensive drugs reached 1.4 trillion won in 2016, taking up 9.4 percent of the total. Atherosclerotic solvents amounted to 1.3 trillion won (8.4 percent) and the drugs treating malignant tumors, 1.02 trillion won (6.7 percent). The claims of for drugs related to chronic diseases such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and malignant neoplasm were relatively high.
Other claims included medicine for peptic ulcer (5.7 percent), antibiotics (working on gram-positive, gram-negative bacteria, 5.5 percent), other chemical agents (5.2 percent), antidiabetic drugs (5 percent), and fever/pain/anti-inflammatory pills (4.1 percent).
The use of narcotic drugs has been on the rise in recent years.
Although the total number of narcotic drug claims decreased from 159.8 billion won in 2012 to 157.6 billion won in 2014, the figure went up to 163.7 billion won in 2015 and 185.2 billion won in 2016.
Moreover, the proportion of the pharmaceutical costs for people aged 65 and over climbed to 39.1 percent in 2016 from 35.7 percent in 2012, due to the population aging.
The trend is in contrast to the decreased share of the drug costs of the total population to 15.7 percent in 2016 from 27.1 percent in 2012.
"As we’re approaching a super-aged society, we need a policy consideration to reduce the cost of health insurance drugs and search for various ways of financing in the mid- and long-term,” the HIRA said.