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Cholesterol and Diabetes Lead Drug Spending for the Elderly

AHRQ News and Numbers, March 10, 2010

AHRQ News and Numbers provides statistical highlights on the use and cost of health services and health insurance in the United States.

Purchases of cholesterol and diabetes prescription drugs by elderly Medicare beneficiaries reached nearly $19 billion in 2007, about one-fourth of the approximately $82 billion spent for medications for the elderly, according to the latest Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) News and Numbers.

Metabolic drugs, which are used to lower cholesterol levels, keep diabetes under control, and for weight and thyroid problems, topped the list of the five leading categories of drugs purchased by the elderly.

According to the analysis by the Federal agency, the other four drug classes in the top five in 2007 were:

  • Cardiovascular drugs, including blood pressure medicines, diuretics, and drugs to control abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation ($15 billion).
  • Central nervous system drugs, such as arthritis and other pain medications ($8 billion).
  • Gastrointestinal drugs, which include anti-acid medications ($7 billion).
  • Hormones to treat osteoporosis, cancer, and other conditions ($5 billion).

AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, improves the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are 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, the cost of those services, and how they are paid.

For more information, go to Expenditures for the Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Medicare Beneficiaries, Age 18 and Older.

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

Current as of March 2010
Internet Citation: Cholesterol and Diabetes Lead Drug Spending for the Elderly: AHRQ News and Numbers, March 10, 2010. March 2010. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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


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