Did Medicare Induce Pharmaceutical Innovation?

15 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2006 Last revised: 8 Feb 2014

See all articles by Daron Acemoglu

Daron Acemoglu

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Amy Finkelstein

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Joshua Linn

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics

Date Written: January 2006

Abstract

The introduction of Medicare in 1965 was the single largest change in health insurance coverage in U.S. history. Many economists and commentators have conjectured that the introduction of Medicare may have also been an important impetus for the development of new drugs that are now commonly used by the elderly and have substantially extended their life expectancy. In this paper, we investigate whether Medicare induced pharmaceutical innovations directed towards the elderly. Medicare could have played such a role only if two conditions were met. First, Medicare would have to increase drug spending by the elderly. Second, the pharmaceutical companies would have to respond to the change in market size for drugs caused by Medicare by changing the direction of their research. Our empirical work finds no evidence of a "first-stage" effect of Medicare on prescription drug expenditure by the elderly. Correspondingly, we also find no evidence of a shift in pharmaceutical innovation towards therapeutic categories most used by the elderly. On the whole, therefore, our evidence does not provide support for the hypothesis that Medicare had a major effect on the direction of pharmaceutical innovation.

Suggested Citation

Acemoglu, Daron and Cutler, David M. and Finkelstein, Amy and Linn, Joshua, Did Medicare Induce Pharmaceutical Innovation? (January 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w11949. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=877454

Daron Acemoglu (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

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Amy Finkelstein

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Joshua Linn

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Economics ( email )

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