Outpatient Prescription Drugs: Adults Age 18 & Older

MEPS Statistical Brief No. 468

Expenditures for the Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Adults Age 18 and Older, a statistical brief from the Household and Pharmacy Components of the 2012 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, presents descriptive statistics on expenditures for the top five most costly therapeutic classes of outpatient prescription drugs, ranked by total expenses in 2012 for adults age 18 and older in the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Prescription drug therapeutic classes are defined according to the Multum/Lexicon therapeutic classification system. In 2012, 17 broad therapeutic classifications were identified.

Expenditures include payments from all sources (e.g., out of pocket, private, and public insurance sources) for outpatient prescription drug purchases during 2012. Insulin and diabetic supplies and equipment are also included in prescribed medicines estimates. Over-the-counter medicines are excluded from these estimates as are prescription medicines administered in an inpatient setting or in a clinic or physician's office.  

Highlights:

  • In 2012, the top five therapeutic classes of prescription drugs ranked by total expense among adults were metabolic agents, central nervous system agents, cardiovascular agents, psychotherapeutic agents, and respiratory agents.
  • Expenditures for the top five therapeutic classes totaled $155.8 billion and accounted for about 58 percent of total expenditures on prescription drugs purchased for the adult population in 2012.
  • Expenses for metabolic agents accounted for a little less than one-fifth of total prescription drug expenses for adults in 2012.
  • More than three in ten adults purchased a central nervous system agent in 2012.
  • In 2012, among the top five therapeutic classes of drugs, the highest average expense per prescription was for respiratory agents.

Select to access Expenditures for the Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Adults Age 18 and Older.

Page last reviewed March 2015
Internet Citation: Outpatient Prescription Drugs: Adults Age 18 & Older: MEPS Statistical Brief No. 468. March 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/meps1.html