5 most expensive Rxs for retirees

August 6, 2013

Americans 65 and older spent nearly $93 billion on prescription drugs in 2010. That’s not surprising. What may be surprising is that nearly 7 out of 10 of those dollars were spent in only a handful of drug classifications.

Americans 65 and older spent nearly $93 billion on prescription drugs in 2010. That’s not surprising. What may be surprising is that nearly 7 out of 10 of those dollars were spent in only a handful of drug classifications.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), Medicare beneficiaries spent $92.8 billion on prescription drugs. The AHRQ analysis found that $63.4 billion (68%) was spent on 5 drug types.

The most-expensive prescription drugs for retirees, according to AHRQ’s analysis of Medicare spending, are:

#1. Metabolic drugs. Retirees spent a whooping $22.5 billion in 2010 on metabolic drugs such as simvastatin, metformin, Lipitor, pravastatin, and Crestor. This figure includes out-of-pocket, private and public insurance costs for Medicare beneficiaries. It does not include over-the-counter or drugs administered/dispensed in physician’s offices. Nearly 60% of Medicare recipients 65 and older use metabolic drugs and the average prescription costs $98.

#2. Cardiovascular drugs. While the average prescription costs for cardiovascular drugs was the lowest among the top 5 ($40), 71% of Medicare recipients 65 and older bought drugs such as lisinopril, metoprolol, amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide, and furosemide. Medicare retirees spent $14.6 billion on cardiovascular drugs in 2010.

#3. Central nervous system drugs. Medicare retirees spent $11.1 billion or an average of $80 per prescription on drugs such as hydrocodone, ibuprofen, gabapentin, alprazolam, and aspirin. About 43% purchased central nervous system drugs.

#4. Respiratory drugs.  Less than 20% of Medicare recipients require respiratory drugs, but at an average cost of $139 per prescription program costs quickly add up. Medicare spent $7.8 billion on these drugs in 2010, including medications such as Singular, albuterol, Advair, ProAir, and fexofenadine.

#5. Gastrointestinal drugs. Slightly more than a quarter of Medicare beneficiaries used these drugs in 2010. But at an average cost of $111 per prescription, that accounted for $7.5 billion in program costs. These medications included omeprazole, Nexium, ranitidine, pantoprazole, and famotidine.

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