The 5 Most Expensive Prescription Drugs for Retirees

Emily Brandon

Retirees spent $92.8 billion on prescription drugs in 2010. The majority of this money (68 percent) was paid for just five types of medications that cost Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older $63.4 billion, according to a recent analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Here are the five most expensive types of medications retirees use:

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Metabolic drugs. Simvastatin, Metformin, Lipitor, Pravastatin and Crestor are among the metabolic drugs that senior citizens spent $22.5 billion on in 2010, the most of any type of medication. This calculation includes out-of-pocket, private and public insurance costs for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older, but does not take into account over-the-counter medicines or drugs administered in a clinic or physician's office. Over half (59 percent) of Medicare beneficiaries use metabolic medicines, and the average prescription costs $98. Metabolic drugs made up nearly a quarter (24 percent) of all medication expenses for Medicare beneficiaries.

Cardiovascular drugs. The average prescription for a cardiovascular drug costs $40, the lowest of any medication in the top five. But seniors spent $14.6 billion on these drugs because so many people take them. Over two thirds (71 percent) of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older purchased cardiovascular medicines in 2010, which include Lisinopril, Metoprolol, Amlodipine, Hydrochlorothiazide and Furosemide.

[Read: How to Budget for Health Costs in Retirement.]

Central nervous system drugs. Some 43 percent of Medicare beneficiaries purchased central nervous system drugs, including Hydrocodone, Ibuprofen, Gabapentin, Alprazolam and Aspirin. These medications cost an average of $80 per prescription and collectively cost retirees $11.1 billion.

Respiratory drugs. Respiratory drugs have the highest average expense per prescription, costing the typical retiree $139 for each refill. The 18 percent of Medicare recipients who use respiratory drugs spent $7.8 billion on them in 2010. Commonly prescribed respiratory medications include Singulair, Albuterol, Advair, Proair and Fexofenadine.

[Read: 10 Ways to Make the Most of Medicare.]

Gastrointestinal drugs. In 2010, just over a quarter (26 percent) of Medicare beneficiaries purchased gastrointestinal medications, such as Omeprazole, Nexium, Ranitidine, Pantoprazole and Famotidine. These drugs cost retirees $7.5 billion, or an average of $111 per prescription.