High Cholesterol, Diabetes Lead Drug Spending for the Elderly

Purchases of cholesterol and diabetes prescription drugs by elderly Medicare beneficiaries reached nearly $19 billion in 2007 – about 1/4 of the approximately $82 billion spent for medications for the elderly.

Purchases of cholesterol and diabetes prescription drugs by elderly Medicare beneficiaries reached nearly $19 billion in 2007 — about one-fourth of the approximately $82 billion spent for medications for the elderly, according to the latest AHRQ News and Numbers.

Metabolic drugs, which are used to lower cholesterol levels, keep diabetes under control, and for weight and thyroid problems, topped the list of the five leading categories of drugs purchased by the elderly.

According to the analysis by the federal agency, the other four drug classes in the top five in 2007 were:

  • Cardiovascular drugs, including blood pressure medicines, diuretics and drugs to control abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation ($15 billion)
  • Central nervous system drugs, such as arthritis and other pain medications ($8 billion)
  • Gastrointestinal drugs, which include anti-acid medications ($7 billion)
  • Hormones, to treat osteoporosis, cancer and other conditions ($5 billion)

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality