Prescription drug purchases increase for digestive problems

Research Activities, March 2010, No. 355

The number of Americans buying prescription drugs to treat digestive conditions climbed over 50 percent between 1997 and 2007, rising from 18.1 million to 29 million people, according to the latest data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Total annual spending for these drugs rose during the 10 years from $7 billion to nearly $19 billion (in 2007 dollars).

AHRQ's analysis also found that:

  • The proportion of children ages 17 and younger who had at least one prescription drug purchase for a digestive condition rose from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent. This trend held true for seniors—increasing from 18.6 percent to 26.6 percent—and for 18 to 64 year olds—rising from 6.4 percent to 8.9 percent.
  • The total number of prescription drug purchases for digestive conditions more than doubled—rising from 77.8 million to 158.4 million.
  • The average expense per digestive prescription drug purchase increased 33 percent—from $90 to $120.

The estimates do not include over-the-counter drugs and prescription drugs administered in inpatient, physician's office, or clinic settings.

These data were 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, their cost, and how they are paid for. For more information, go to Trends in Outpatient Prescription Gastrointestinal Agent Purchases and Expenditures for the Civilian Noninstitutionalized Population, 1997 and 2007, at

Current as of March 2010
Internet Citation: Prescription drug purchases increase for digestive problems: Research Activities, March 2010, No. 355. March 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.