In 2000, a mere two dozen products accounted for half the increase in spending on prescription drugs, a phenomenon that is explained not just because of more expensive drugs but by the fact that doctors are writing many more prescriptions for higher-cost drugs.

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)


Sentence Analysis

The sentence says that in 2000, 24 products accounted for 50% of the increase in spending on prescription drugs. The sentence then says “a phenomenon that is explained…”. This is a Noun+Noun modifier (a noun followed by its modifier). This modifier is probably the most versatile modifier since, when it follows a clause, it can modify anything in the clause. In the present sentence, this modifier modifies the ‘main idea’ of the previous clause i.e. the idea communicated by the previous clause.

The phenomenon is that mere 24 products accounted for 50% increase in spending. The modifier then presents additional information about this phenomenon. It says that this phenomenon is explained by two things:

  1. More expensive drugs
  2. Doctors are writing many more prescriptions for expensive drugs

The sentence has two errors:

  1. Saying “X is explained because of Y” is incorrect. The correct versions are “X is explained by Y” and “X happened because of Y”. Using “explained” and “because” together creates a distorted meaning.
  2. The sentence lacks parallelism. The two reasons that explain the phenomenon form a list, so they need to be parallel. Currently, “because of…” and “by the fact…” are clearly not parallel.

Option Analysis

(A) Incorrect. For the errors explained above.

(B) Correct. This option corrects both the errors in the original sentence.

(C) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. The phenomenon is occurring not because of drugs! The phenomenon is occurring because the drugs are becoming more expensive. In this option, “that are becoming more expensive” is just a modifier for “drugs”, and thus the option essentially means that the drugs are responsible for the phenomenon.
  2. Also, saying that the phenomenon is occurring because of doctors distorts the meaning of the original sentence. The phenomenon is occurring not because of doctors but because these doctors are writing expensive drugs. Right?
  3. The use of “having written” indicates that this action was completed before some other action. However, clearly, there is no sequence involved here. Thus, this use is incorrect.
  4. The placement of “also” is incorrect. It should have been right after “but”. As is, it indicates that doctors did something else also other than writing many more expensive drugs.

(D) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. “which” is a pronoun and thus cannot refer to the entire clause.
  2. “because drugs…” is not parallel to “doctors are writing”. Since they are elements of a list, they need to be parallel. However, clearly they are not parallel: one is a dependent clause and the other is an independent clause. 

(E) Incorrect. For the following reasons:

  1. “which” is a pronoun and thus cannot refer to the entire clause.
  2. The elements “because of more expensive drugs” and “because doctors have also written” are not entirely parallel. This is not a deterministic error since at least, the two elements can substitute each other. However, if we are given an option, we should always go with the most parallel structure.

A very interesting thing to note in this question is how the past and present verb tenses have been mixed in the correct option. The sentence talks about a phenomenon that happened in 2000. However, to explain the same phenomenon, the sentence uses present continuous tense! Isn’t it interesting? The use of present tense to explain a past phenomenon can only be justified if the part in the present tense is currently valid. For example: when we say something in the past in reported speech, we make everything into the past tense: “She said she was going to the party”. However, to talk about ideas that are currently true, we use present tense: “She said she is going to the party.” (In the second sentence, by using the present tense, we are communicating that she still needs to go to the party at the time of writing the sentence. In the first sentence, we cannot be sure whether she had already gone or she still had to go to the party). Similarly, I believe the present tense has been used in the correct option to communicate that the ideas communicated in those parts are still valid today.

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