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Women 65 and older used more medications and spent more for them than same-age men during the period 1999 to 2001

Because women 65 and older used more prescription drugs than men of the same age, their medication expenditures were about 17 percent higher from 1999 to 2001, according to a study by researchers at AHRQ. Rosaly Correa-de-Araujo, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., G. Edward Miller, Ph.D., and Jessica S. Banthin, Ph.D., examined differences between men and women in use of and expenditures for prescription drugs among Medicare and privately insured adults aged 65 and older. They used data on a nationally representative sample of prescription drug purchases collected for the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey Household Component in 1999, 2000, and 2001.

Overall, elderly women spent an average of $1,178 per year, about 17 percent more than the $1,009 spent by elderly men. The higher drug expenditures among women were due to higher rates of drug use rather than higher prices paid for drugs. Women were somewhat more likely than men (92 vs. 88 percent) to use prescription drugs, with women purchasing almost 20 percent more prescriptions on average than men (25 vs. 21). Women were more likely than men to use analgesics, hormones, psychotherapeutic agents, thyroid drugs, COX-2 inhibitors, and antidepressants, and they had more prescriptions per user for hormones, psychotherapeutic agents, analgesics, diabetes-related drugs, and beta-blockers.

However, the findings for the privately insured population of older adults found no difference between women and men in the probability that they would use several antihypertensives, even though women constitute 61 percent of those with hypertension in the Medicare population. Unfortunately, about 30 percent of the elderly with diabetes, hypertension, or heart failure who do not have prescription drug coverage skip medication doses that are critical for controlling such conditions. The expanded drug coverage available under the new Medicare Modernization Act may boost their compliance with drug regimens, note the authors.

See "Gender differences in drug use and expenditures in a privately insured population of older adults," by Drs. Correa-de-Araujo, Miller, and Banthin, and Yen Trinh, in the Journal of Women's Health 14(1), pp. 73-81, 2005. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 05-R019) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

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