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AHRQ News and Numbers
Release date: January 24, 2007
In 2004, American adults spent $32 billion on cardiovascular drugs, putting them at the top of the five costliest classes of drugs prescribed by doctors for people age 18 and over, according to the latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
The five costliest classes of drugs combined accounted for two thirds—$119 billion—of the total $181 billion spent on outpatient prescription medications by adults in the United States in 2004.
- Hormones were the second-costliest drug class ($25 billion), followed by central nervous system drugs ($24 billion), which can be used to treat pain and control seizures; cholesterol-lowering medications ($22 billion); and anti-depressants and other psychotherapeutic drugs ($18 billion).
- Among adults who made a prescription drug purchase in 2004, the highest percentage purchased at least one central nervous system drug (44 percent), followed by cardiovascular medications (38 percent), hormones (37 percent), anti-cholesterol drugs (22 percent), and antidepressants (20 percent).
AHRQ also looked at spending for the top five therapeutic classes of drugs prescribed for Medicare beneficiaries, ages 65 and older, in 2004.
- The top five classes were cardiovascular drugs ($17 billion), cholesterol-lowering drugs ($10 billion), hormones ($8 billion), central nervous system drugs ($7 billion), and gastrointestinal drugs ($6 billion). Spending totaled nearly $48 billion.
- Expenditures for these drugs accounted for roughly three quarters of the $65 billion spent on all prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries, ages 65 and older, in 2004.
AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to enhance the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care in the United States. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a highly detailed source of information on the health services that Americans use, how frequently they use them, the cost of these services, and how they are paid.
For more information on this AHRQ News and Numbers summary, access The Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs Ranked by Total Expense for Adults in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2004, MEPS Statistical Brief No. 154 and The Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Drugs Ranked by Total Expense for the Medicare Population Age 65 and Older in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2004, MEPS Statistical Brief No. 153.
For other information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.
Current as of January 2007.