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Cardiovascular Drugs, Four Other Therapeutic Classes of Drugs Dominate the Market

ROCKVILLE, Md., January 24, 2007 -- In 2004, American adults spent $32 billion on cardiovascular drugs, putting them at the top of the five costliest classes of drugs prescribed by doctors for people age 18 and over, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The five costliest classes of drugs combined accounted for two thirds – $119 billion – of the $181 billion total expenditures spent on outpatient prescription medications by adults in the United States in 2004.

Hormones were the second-costliest drug class ($25 billion), followed by central nervous system drugs ($24 billion), which can be used to treat pain and control seizures; cholesterol-lowering medications ($22 billion); and anti-depressants and other psychotherapeutic drugs ($18 billion).

Among adults who had a prescription drug purchase in 2004, the highest percentage purchased at least one central nervous system drug (44 percent), followed by cardiovascular medications (38 percent), hormones (37 percent), anti-cholesterol drugs (22 percent), and antidepressants (20 percent).

AHRQ also looked at spending for the top five therapeutic classes of drugs prescribed for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older in 2004.

The top five classes were

  • cardiovascular drugs ($17 billion)
  • cholesterol-lowering drugs ($10 billion)
  • hormones ($8 billion)
  • central nervous system drugs ($7 billion)
  • gastrointestinal drugs ($6 billion)

Spending totaled nearly $48 billion.

Expenditures for these drugs accounted for roughly three-quarters of the $65 billion spent on all prescription drugs for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older in 2004.

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Posted: January 2007