Study Tracks Senior Drug Spending

July 31, 2001 ( - The number of seniors using more than 30 prescriptions per year grew by 12% in three years, the costs of which continue to increase, as older drugs are replaced by more expensive newer therapies, rather than by generic alternatives, a study finds.

Furthermore, the number of different diseases for which insured individuals over 65 are being treated with drug therapy is increasing, with over 12% of seniors taking prescriptions from at least eight different therapeutic classes, according to the study.

Drug Expenditures

The study, Recent Trends in Prescription Drug Spending for Insured Individuals Under 65 and Age 65 and Older, which included analysis of claims data for 100,000 individuals in the over-65 age bracket, found that:

· Expenditure by those aged 65 and over grew by 18.5% from 1997 to 2000
· while expenditure by the younger group grew by 15.6%
· the mean total drug expenditure increased from $827 to $1,378 over the period.

Not surprisingly, the number of days of medication therapy per year also increases with age. While the seniors made up only 6% of the sample, they accounted for 20% of all prescriptions and 20% of total pharmacy expenditures.

Nevertheless, the study notes that the findings may be reassuring for instituting a Medicare drug benefit, since total expenditure levels for the over-65 insured individual are well within the cost per capita recently estimated by the Congressional Budget Office, even when inflation and the disabled population are factored in.


The study, undertaken by Brandeis University and funded by the RxHealthValue coalition tracked drug spending trends from 1997 to 2000 among insured individuals using data from pharmacy benefit manager AdvancePCS.