Magazine article The Futurist

Drugs and Life Expectancy

Magazine article The Futurist

Drugs and Life Expectancy

Article excerpt

Some people think Westerners take too many prescription drugs, but such pharmaceuticals extend life expectancy more than any other kind of health care, according to a new study from the American Enterprise Institute.

The study surveyed the health-care expenditures of 17 European countries, plus Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States, and compared these to life expectancy and infant mortality rates for each country. When variables such as nonpharmaceutical health care and monetary exchange rates were controlled for, the study indicated that a doubling of pharmaceutical consumption could increase life expectancy at 40 years by 2% and at 60 years by 4%.

The study also found that other nonpharmaceutical health care - as measured by the number of physicians, number of hospital beds, and public expenditure on health care - had no effect on life expectancy. The authors speculate that, once a basic level of health care is achieved, there is a decline in the life-expectancy returns on additional expenditures.

Basic public-health measures, such as providing drinkable water and sanitation services, have the greatest effect on life expectancy, the authors note, adding that "those services, however, are in the domain of civil engineering, not health care. …

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