Published Online: Sunday, July 1, 2007

The latest findings from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's News and Numbers report found that spending for medications prescribed in outpatient settings rose from $72 billion in 1997 to $191 billion in 2004. The analysis also showed:

  • During the period 1997-2004, the average annual expenditure for Rx drugs for individuals aged 65 and older increased 130% - rising from $819 in 1997 to $1914 in 2004. The average out-of-pocket cost more than doubled for this group, increasing from $483 in 1997 to $1027 in 2004.
  • From 1997 to 2004, total purchases of outpatient Rx medicines increased from approximately 2 billion to nearly 3 billion scripts. This increase in part was due to a rise in the average number of prescription drug purchases per year by individuals aged 65 and older, which jumped from 22 to 31 purchases per year.
  • During that same period, younger individuals also bought more prescription drugs on average. Individuals under 65 years who purchased prescription medications had purchased 9 Rxs a year on average. In 2004, this figure rose to 13 prescriptions per year.

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