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Five therapeutic categories of prescribed drugs dominate spending on p

Research Activities, March 2009, No. 343

Five therapeutic categories of prescribed drugs dominate spending on prescription medicines

Medications that affect a person's metabolism by helping to lower cholesterol, control diabetes, and control weight accounted for $38 billion of the $208.1 billion that American adults spent on medications in 2006, according to data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). The estimate comes from an AHRQ analysis that found five therapeutic categories of prescribed drugs accounted for more than 60 percent of consumer spending on drugs in 2006. Among the conclusions:

  • Spending was highest for metabolic drugs, which included cholesterol-lowering medications, diabetes drugs, and weight control drugs.
  • Cardiovascular drugs, which include blood pressure drugs, as well as diuretics and drugs to control heart rhythm problems: $33 billion.
  • Central nervous system drugs, which include analgesics for pain: $28 billion.
  • Psychotherapeutic drugs, which include antidepressants: $17.5 billion.
  • Hormones that are used for osteoporosis, menopausal symptoms, cancer treatment, and other medical problems: $14 billion.

These data 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 Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs Ranked by Total Expense for Adults Age 18 and Older in the U.S. Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 2006, MEPS Statistical Brief #232 (http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb).

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Current as of March 2009
Internet Citation: Five therapeutic categories of prescribed drugs dominate spending on p: Research Activities, March 2009, No. 343. March 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/research-activities/mar09/0309RA20.html