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, 87 (10), 1626-9

Prescription Drug Spending: The Impact of Age and Chronic Disease Status


Prescription Drug Spending: The Impact of Age and Chronic Disease Status

C Mueller et al. Am J Public Health.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine how pharmaceutical expenditures vary by age and the presence of chronic health problems.

Methods: Data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey were used to obtain nationally representative estimates of outpatient prescription drug expenditures for the noninstitutionalized population and the fraction of total health expenditures used to purchase medications for age-chronic disease population subgroups.

Results: Although the elderly make up 12% of the population, they account for 34% of total pharmaceutical expenditures. Pharmaceutical expenditures are 9% of total expenditures for children, 13% for nonelderly adults, and 23% for the elderly. Among nonelderly adults, approximately one third have at least one chronic condition and account for over two thirds of drug expenditures. Among the elderly, 36% have three or more chronic conditions and account for 57% of drug expenditures for this group; 41% of total drug expenditures are for cardiovascular or renal drugs.

Conclusions: Significant pharmaceutical spending is for treatment of chronic conditions, which subjects insurance coverage to adverse selection and could affect the design of prescription drug benefit packages. Current enrollees in Medicare risk management plans who have drug benefits may face significantly higher out-of-pocket expenses for pharmaceuticals if capitation rates are cut as a means of controlling Medicare program expenditures.

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