U.S. spends nearly $1 billion on blood thinners for adults

Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353

Third-party payers and patients spent $900 million in 2007 on adult outpatient prescriptions for anticoagulant drugs, more commonly known as blood thinners, according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Anticoagulants help prevent blood clots, which can cause serious medical problems such as strokes, heart attacks, or pulmonary embolisms. The last problem occurs when one or more arteries in the lungs become blocked, in most cases by blood clots that travel to the lungs from another part of the body.

The Federal agency found that 4.2 million Americans aged 18 and older used a blood thinner in 2007. The average expenditure and average out-of-pocket payment for a brand-name blood thinner were $65 and $29, respectively; generics were $18 and $7, respectively.

AHRQ also found that:

  • About 10 percent of Americans aged 75 and older, and 6 percent of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 used one or more blood thinners in 2007. In contrast, less than 1 percent of people younger than 65 used a blood thinner.
  • About 74 percent of adults on blood thinners had a heart-related condition; 40 percent had undergone surgery that year; and about 30 percent had cancer or diabetes.
  • Of the nearly 28 million prescriptions for blood thinners filled by pharmacists, 19.3 million were for generic blood thinners and 8.5 million were for brand-name drugs.

These data were taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, their cost, and how they are paid. For more information, go to Outpatient Prescription Anticoagulants Utilization and Expenditures for the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population Age 18 and Older, 2007.

AHRQ has produced a new DVD for clinicians and patients on how to use anticoagulant drugs safely and effectively, Staying Healthy and Active with Blood Thinners. To view the video, go to Blood Thinner Pills: Your Guide to Using Them Safely . To order the DVD, which may be played in English or Spanish, E-mail AHRQPubs@ahrq.hhs.gov or call 1-800-358-9295.

Current as of January 2010
Internet Citation: U.S. spends nearly $1 billion on blood thinners for adults: Research Activities, January 2010, No. 353. January 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/jan10/0110RA1.html