Top five prescribed drugs

With a total nearly $5 billion, Lipitor, a cholesterol-reducing drug, ranked first in terms of total spending on prescription medicines by adults ages 18 to 64 in 2004, and another cholesterol-fighting drug, Zocor, ranked fourth at $2.3 billion, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Rounding out the top five prescribed drugs for adults were second- and third-ranked Nexium ($2.7 billion) and Prevacid ($2.4 billion) – proton-pump inhibitor drugs that reduce stomach acid -- and Zoloft, an antidepressant ($1.9 billion), which ranked fifth.

AHRQ data also found that:

  • For people age 65 and older, Lipitor and Zocor ranked first and second in total spending ($4.35 billion and $2.4 billion, respectively), followed by Plavix, an antiplatlet drug ($1.7 billion), Norvasc, a calcium channel blocker that can be used to treat high blood pressure and certain kinds of chest pain, such as angina ($1.5 billion), and Nexium ($1.5 billion).
  • For children age 17 and under, the top five drugs when ranked by total expenses were Singulair ($680 million), a medication that can be used to control asthma, ranked first; Concerta ($490 million), Strattera ($430 million), and Adderall ($410 million), drugs commonly used to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, ranked second, third and fifth, respectively; and Zyrtec, an antihistamine ($420 million), ranked fourth.

AHRQ, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, works to enhance the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care in the United States. The data in this AHRQ News and Numbers summary are taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), a highly detailed source of information on the health services used by Americans, the frequency with which they use them, the cost of those services, and how they are paid. More information is available in The Top Five Outpatient Prescription Drugs Ranked by the Expense for Children, Adults, and the Elderly, 2004 (http://www.meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_files/publications/st180/stat180.pdf).

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