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Opposing cost trends seen for prescribed medications


Overall per-person drug expenditures rose significantly from 2009 to 2016 for those who used a prescribed medicine, while out-of-pocket costs took a significant fall, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Average drug spending for those with medicine use, 2009-2016

The average expenditure among persons who used at least one prescription drug went from $1,497 per individual in 2009 to $1,955 in 2016, for an increase of almost 31%. These cost figures cover medications obtained in outpatient settings only and “include the amount paid out of pocket plus any third-party payments from health insurance or other sources,” the AHRQ said.

When out-of-pocket spending for drugs obtained in outpatient settings was considered separately, the average per-person cost dropped by 27%, going from $327 per person with use in 2009 to $238 in 2016, the AHRQ researchers reported.

Over that time period, both total and out-of-pocket costs were considerably and consistently higher for those aged 65 years and older than for those under 65. In 2016, total spending was $3,288 each for elderly persons with at least one prescribed drug purchase and $1,539 for those under age 65, with respective out-of-pocket costs of $401 and $188, they said.

The AHRQ analysis was based on data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and expenditures for 2009-2015 were adjusted to 2016 dollars.

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