Trends in Prescribed Medication Expenditures

MEPS Statistical Brief #522

Prescribed medicines save lives and improve quality of life, but rising expenditures on prescribed medicines are an area of concern for U.S. policymakers and healthcare consumers.

Trends in Prescribed Medication Expenditures by Age and Type of Prescription Drug Coverage, a statistical brief from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, examines trends in average and median total person-level expenditures, average and median out-of-pocket expenditures, and average total and out-of-pocket expenditures by age and type of prescription drug coverage.

Highlights

  • In the U.S. noninstitutionalized population, the average total prescribed medicine expenditure for persons who obtained at least one outpatient prescription medication increased by $458, from $1,497 in 2009 to $1,955 in 2016, a 30.6 percent increase.
  • There was no statistically significant change from 2009 to 2016 in median total spending, which was $326 in 2016 for persons who obtained at least one outpatient prescription medication.
  • Among persons purchasing at least one outpatient prescription medication, average out-of-pocket costs for prescribed medicines decreased by $89, from $327 in 2009 to $238 in 2016, a 27.0 percent decrease. Median out-of-pocket spending also decreased from $89 to $51.
  • In every year from 2009 to 2016, both average total and out-of-pocket expenditures for prescribed medicines were consistently higher for the elderly than the non-elderly. For example, in 2016, the elderly had $3,288 average total expenditures, compared with $1,539 for the non-elderly, a difference of $1,749. In the same year, the elderly paid out of pocket an average of $401, compared with $188 for the non-elderly, a difference of $213.
  • Among persons who obtained at least one outpatient prescription medication, average total prescribed medicine expenditures increased from $2,635 in 2009 to $3,288 in 2016 for the elderly and from $1,227 to $1,539 for the non-elderly.
  • Among persons who obtained at least one outpatient prescription medication, average out-of-pocket costs decreased from $618 in 2009 to $401 in 2016 for the elderly and from $258 to $188 for the non-elderly. Opioid-related stays in West Virginia and Massachusetts (66 and 64 percent of counties in the top quintile) cost $33 and $39 per resident annually, respectively.
  • From 2009 to 2016, average out-of-pocket costs decreased for persons with drug coverage, but people without drug coverage, including the uninsured, saw no significant change when comparing 2009 and 2016.

Select to access Trends in Prescribed Medication Expenditures by Age and Type of Prescription Drug Coverage.

Page last reviewed May 2019
Page originally created May 2019
Internet Citation: Trends in Prescribed Medication Expenditures. Content last reviewed May 2019. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/news/meps-trends.html
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