Outpatient Prescription Drugs: Medicare Beneficiaries

MEPS Statistical Brief No. 469

Expenditures for the Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Medicare Beneficiaries, Age 65 and Older, a statistical brief from the Household and Pharmacy Components of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), provides descriptive statistics on expenditures for the top five most costly therapeutic classes of outpatient prescription drugs. 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 MEPS 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 most costly therapeutic classes of prescription drugs ranked by total expense among Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older were metabolic agents, cardiovascular agents, central nervous system agents, respiratory agents, and gastrointestinal agents.
  • Among the Medicare population age 65 and older in 2012, expenditures for the top five therapeutic classes totaled $61.4 billion and represented more than two-thirds (68.5 percent) of annual expenditures for prescription drugs.
  • Expenses for metabolic agents accounted for nearly one-quarter of total prescription drug expenses for the Medicare population age 65 and older in 2012.
  • More than two-thirds of the Medicare population age 65 and older purchased a cardiovascular agent in 2012.
  • In 2012, among the top five therapeutic classes of prescription drugs, respiratory agents had the highest average expense per prescription with more than four times the average expense of cardiovascular agents.

Select to access Expenditures for the Top Five Therapeutic Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Medicare Beneficiaries, Age 65 and Older.

Page last reviewed March 2015
Internet Citation: Outpatient Prescription Drugs: Medicare Beneficiaries: MEPS Statistical Brief No. 469. March 2015. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/meps2.html