NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 18, 2005

Newer drugs reduce mortality even more than older drugs, according to a new study by Columbia University researcher Frank Lichtenberg.

Lichtenberg examined the impact of the vintage (original Food and Drug Administration approval year) of drugs used to treat Puerto Rican Medicaid patients on their 3-year probability of survival. After controlling for demographic characteristics, he found:

  • The mortality rate was 16 percent lower (3.7 percent versus 4.4 percent) than it would have been had all drugs used been approved before 1970.
  • In other words, the new medicines introduced between 1970 and 2000 reduced mortality by about 0.58 percent per year.
  • For drugs approved before 1970 the probability of death was 4.4 percent, whereas for drugs approved in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s the mortality rates were 3.6 percent, 3.0 percent, and 2.5 percent respectively.

Lichtenberg also observes that patients in Puerto Rico's Medicaid program use proportionately fewer new drugs than their American counterparts. If Puerto Rican Medicaid patients had received the same percentage of post-1980 and post-1990 drugs as the U.S. Medicaid population, the mortality rate would have been 5.3 percent lower.

Source: F.R. Lichtenberg, "The Effect of Drug Vintage on Survival: Micro Evidence from Puerto Rico's Medicaid Program," National Bureau for Economic Research, November 2004.


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