Cholesterol and diabetes drugs lead drug spending for the elderly

Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356

Purchases of cholesterol and diabetes prescription drugs by elderly Medicare beneficiaries reached nearly $19 billion in 2007—about one-fourth of the approximately $82 billion spent for medications for the elderly, according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Metabolic drugs, which are used to lower cholesterol levels, keep diabetes under control, and for weight and thyroid problems, topped the list of the five leading categories of drugs purchased by the elderly.

The other four drug classes in the top five in 2007 were:

  • Cardiovascular drugs, including blood pressure medicines, diuretics, and drugs to control abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation ($15 billion).
  • Central nervous system drugs, such as arthritis and other pain medications ($8 billion).
  • Gastrointestinal drugs, which include anti-acid medications ($7 billion).
  • Hormones to treat osteoporosis, cancer, and other conditions ($5 billion).

These data are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. To read Expenditures for the Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Medicare Beneficiaries, Age 18 and Older, go to http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_files/publications/st280/stat280.shtml.

Current as of April 2010
Internet Citation: Cholesterol and diabetes drugs lead drug spending for the elderly: Research Activities, April 2010, No. 356. April 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr10/0410RA38.html