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Psychotherapeutic Drug Spending Surges

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: March 28, 2007

Spending on prescription drugs to treat depression, anxiety, pain, schizophrenia, and other conditions climbed from $7.9 billion in 1997 to $20 billion in 2004—an increase of more than 150 percent, according to the latest News and Numbers summary from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

  • The sharpest increase was for antipsychotic agents, medications used to manage schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other psychoses. Spending increased from $1.3 billion in 1997 to $4.1 billion in 2004.
  • Spending for central nervous system stimulants to treat pain and control seizures nearly tripled over the same time period, increasing from $600 million to $1.7 billion.
  • Spending on antidepressants more than doubled from 1997 to 2004, increasing from $5.1 billion to $12.1 billion, as did expenditures for anxiolytics, sedatives, and hypnotics for anxiety and sleep disorders. Spending for these drugs rose from $900 million to $2.1 billion.
  • Overall prescriptions for psychotherapeutic drugs increased during the same time period, from 141.9 million to 244.3 million. The number of people prescribed at least one such drug rose from 21 million to 32.6 million, and the average price per purchase increased from $55.80 to $82.00.

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), the nation's most complete survey of how Americans use and pay for health care, including their health insurance coverage.

For more information on this AHRQ News and Numbers summary, access Trends in the Use and Expenditures for the Therapeutic Class Prescribed Psychotherapeutic Agents and All Subclasses, 1997 and 2004 (PDF Help).

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 2007.


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


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