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The Nation's Top 10 Drugs Cost $34 Billion

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: November 29, 2005

According to survey data from the Federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Americans and their insurance plans spent $34 billion on the top 10 prescribed drugs when ranked by total expenditure in 2003. These drugs treated high cholesterol, high blood pressure, ulcers, depression, arthritis pain and other health problems.

The top 10 drugs by expenditure and persons treated were:

  • Lipitor®—$7.8 billion and 13.1 million persons.
  • Zocor®—$5.5 billion and 7.5 million persons.
  • Prevacid®—$3.5 billion and 5.2 million persons.
  • Nexium®—$3.2 billion and 4.5 million persons.
  • Celebrex®—$2.9 billion and 6.0 million persons.
  • Norvasc®$2.4 billion and 5.9 million persons.
  • Advair®—$2.2 billion and 4.2 million persons.
  • Paxil®—$2.2 billion and 4.5 million persons.
  • Allegra®—$2.2 billion and 9.2 million persons.
  • Zoloft®—$2.1 billion and 4.7 million persons.

The dollar amounts and number of persons with expenditures for these drugs are rounded. The Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) collects information each year from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households about health care use, expenses, access, health status and quality for Americans other than those in nursing homes or other institutions. MEPS is a unique government survey because of the degree of detail in its data, as well as its ability to link data on health services spending and health insurance to demographic, employment, economic, health status, and other characteristics of individuals and families. 

To view Prescribed Drug Estimates: 2003, go to

To speak with an AHRQ data analyst about these estimates, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.


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


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