Securing the Benefits of Medical Innovation for Seniors: The Role of Prescription Drugs and Drug Coverage. INTRODUCTION


Americans are living longer and healthier lives.

  • By the year 2030, the percentage of Americans over the age of 65 will grow dramatically, doubling in number to 70 million (almost 20% of the U.S. population).
  • Since 1900, the life expectancy of the average American has increased 29 years. (CDC 2002)
  • Over the past century, and especially in the 1980s and 1990s, the rates of mortality, morbidity, and disability among Americans over age 65 have steadily decreased. (CDC 2001; Freedman 2002)
  • A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that between 1979-81 and 1995-97, death rates declined six percent in women and 19 percent in men ages 65 to 74, and eight percent in women and 16 percent in men ages 75 to 84.
  • The world’s population is aging, too. In the next 50 years, the median age of the world’s population will increase 10 years. (United Nations 2002)
  • Many of the gains in longevity and quality of life are directly related to advances in medical science and technology, including pharmaceuticals. One new study found that half the drugs prescribed or administered in office visits in 1999 were not prescribed or administered at all in 1985. (Burt 2002)

Percentage of the U.S. Population Age 65 and Older, 1900 to 2050

Percentage of the U.S. Population Age 65 and Older,<br />
			 1900 to 2050


Note: These data refer to the resident population. Data for the years 2000 to 2050 are middle-series projections of the population.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census Data and Population Projections

In the past, aging has been associated with the development of chronic medical conditions, such as cancer, arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, which limit participation in daily activities and reduce the quality of life. However, recent advances in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases have radically altered the quality of life for older Americans. As a result, the Baby Boom and subsequent generations of seniors will likely live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

The CDC cites decreases in deaths from cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, and hypertension as key contributors to the overall decline in mortality. (CDC, NCHS March 2001) Other studies have found that the levels of physical and cognitive disability among older Americans declined during the 1990s, suggesting that seniors are healthier, and more productive and independent than they were just a decade ago. (Federal Interagency Forum on Aging-Related Statistics 2002; Freedman 2002, 2000, 1998)

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