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Spending for Prescribed Medicines Rose Sharply From 1997 Through 2000

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Press Release Date: August 5, 2003

Expenses for outpatient prescribed medicines increased from $72.3 billion in 1997 to $103 billion in 2000, according to new data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Highlights from the data include:

  • Outpatient prescription medications accounted for a greater proportion of total medical expenses, increasing from approximately 13 percent of total expenses in 1997 to more than 16 percent in 2000.
  • Average out-of-pocket expenses for people age 65 and older were more than three times higher than for people under age 65 every year from 1997 through 2000.
  • Between 1997 and 2000, the average expense for people age 65 and older with any prescription medicine expense increased about 35 percent, from $819 to $1,102. For people under 65, the amount increased about 40 percent, from $347 to $485.
  • Each year from 1997 through 2000, the average number of prescriptions for persons age 65 and older was more than twice the average number of prescriptions for persons under age 65.

Details are in Statistical Brief 21: Trends in Outpatient Prescription Drug Utilization and Expenditures: 1997-2000. The brief is available on the AHRQ Web site at (PDF Help). General information about MEPS is available at

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs: Karen Carp, (301) 427-1858 (; Karen Migdail, (301) 427-1855 (


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