Spending for prescriptions to control diabetes, cholesterol, and other metabolic conditions exceeds $52 billion

Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368

Insurers and consumers spent $52.2 billion on prescription drugs in 2008 for outpatient treatment of metabolic conditions such as diabetes and elevated cholesterol, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Metabolic medicines were the class of drugs with the highest level of spending in 2008. According to data from the Federal agency, purchases of metabolic drugs by adults aged 18 and older accounted for 22 percent of the nearly $233 billion spent overall to buy prescription medicines that year.

Ranked by total spending, the four remaining top therapeutic classes of outpatient prescription drugs in 2008 were:

  • Central nervous system drugs, used to relieve chronic pain and control epileptic seizures and Parkinson's Disease tremors—$35 billion.
  • Cardiovascular drugs, including calcium channel blockers and diuretics—$29 billion.
  • Antacids, antidiarrheals, and other medicines for gastrointestinal conditions—$20 billion.
  • Antidepressants, antipsychotics, and other psychotherapeutic drugs—$20 billion.

Overall purchases of these five therapeutic classes of drugs totaled nearly $156 billion, or two-thirds of the nearly $233 billion that was spent on prescription medicines used in the outpatient treatment of adults. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Household and Pharmacy Components of the 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they are used, the cost of those services, and how they are paid for. For more information, go to Statistical Brief #313, Expenditures for the Top Five Classes of Outpatient Prescription Drugs, Adults Ages 18 and Older, 2008.

For other information or to talk to an AHRQ data expert, please contact Bob Isquith at Bob.Isquith@ahrq.hhs.gov or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of April 2011
Internet Citation: Spending for prescriptions to control diabetes, cholesterol, and other metabolic conditions exceeds $52 billion: Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368. April 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/apr11/0411RA32.html