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Diabetes, Cholesterol, Anti-Obesity Drugs Top Spending

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: February 6, 2008

U.S. adult consumers spent nearly $36 billion for prescription drugs to lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol, or help with other metabolic problems in 2005, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

The four other classes of drugs that topped spending among adults were:

  • Cardiovascular drugs, for reducing high blood pressure and treating heart conditions ($33 billion).
  • Central nervous system drugs, which include pain killers; sleep aid medications and medications for attention deficit disorder ($26 billion).
  • Antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs ($17 billion).
  • Gastrointestinal drugs including antacids and laxatives ($15 billion).

Purchases of these five top classes of drugs totaled $127 billion in 2005—nearly two thirds of the total $199 billion spent on all outpatient prescription medicines.

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, 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. For more information, go to The Top Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs Ranked by Total Expense for Adults Age 18 and Older in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2005.

For more information, or to speak with an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of February 2008


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


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