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Spending on Top 10 Outpatient Prescription Drugs

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: July 11, 2005

Americans spent nearly $30 billion in 2002 on the top 10 prescription drugs as ranked by annual expenses, according to the latest data from the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

  • Among the top 10 prescription drugs as ranked by annual expenses, cholesterol-lowering drugs ranked number 1, number 2 and number 7.
  • Americans spent a total of nearly $151 billion on outpatient prescription drugs in 2002, nearly 2.5 times the $65 billion spent in 1996.
  • The data did not include medicines prescribed in hospitals, nursing homes or other institutions, over-the-counter medications or free samples given to patients in doctors' offices.
  • The total includes all charges for prescriptions regardless of who paid for them.
  • In 2002, Americans spent the following on the top 10 drugs, as ranked by annual expenses:
    • Lipitor® (cholesterol reducer)—$5.9 billion.
    • Zocor® (cholesterol reducer)—$4.4 billion.
    • Prevacid® (anti-ulcer)—$3.0 billion.
    • Prilosec® (anti-ulcer)—$2.6 billion.
    • Celebrex® (Cox-2 inhibitor anti-inflammatory)—$2.4 billion.*
    • Paxil® (antidepressant)—$2.2 billion.
    • Pravachol® (cholesterol reducer)—$2.1 billion.
    • Zoloft® (antidepressant)—$2.1 billion.
    • Claritin® (antihistamine)—$2.1 billion.**
    • Norvasc® (anti-hypertensive)—$2.1 billion.

* In late 2004, FDA issued warnings about possible side effects of Celebrex®.
** In late 2002, Claritin® became available over the counter without a prescription.

Details are in Statistical Brief 60: Top 10 Outpatient Prescription Medicines Ranked by Utilization and Expenditures for the Community Population, 2002, found on the Web at [PDF Help]. The community population includes people not serving in the military or living in nursing homes or other health care facilities.


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