Published Online: Saturday, July 1, 2006

A sharp increase in prescriptions for pricey antidepressant drugs is driving up the cost of the Medicaid drug program at an alarming rate, said researchers at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

In the 5 years from 1997 to 2002, the cost of Medicaid drugs more than doubled from $11.6 billion to $23.7 billion. Overall spending on Medicaid outpatient drugs increased by 20% a year, the researchers reported. A key factor in that increase is that the number of Medicaid beneficiaries taking antidepressants climbed by 50% during the course of the 5-year study, while spending for these medications shot up by 130%.

The investigators also found that increasing rates of prescribing for cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors, proton pump inhibitors, and cholesterol-lowering medications are driving up Medicaid costs.

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