Objective.Pharmaceutical costs have reached 14% of total health care costs in the United States and continue to rise. Many studies have looked at factors that influence utilization of hospital and ambulatory care services in the pediatric population. This study examines the factors that influence utilization of prescription drugs in the pediatric population.

Methods.Data from the 1996 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) were used in the analysis. A 2-part multivariate regression analysis was conducted using pediatric (ages 0–17) prescription drug expenditures as the dependent variable. Independent variables were constructed using demographic variables, socioeconomic variables, health status, and medical conditions.

Results.Black children are less likely than white children to use any prescription drug (odds ratio: 0.67). Similarly, uninsured children are less likely than privately insured children to use any prescription drug (odds ratio: 0.62). Among children who had any prescription drug expenditure in 1996, children who are black, Asian, and Hispanic had lower prescription drug expenditures than children who are white. Children who are uninsured had lower expenditures than children who are privately insured. Children in near-poor families had lower prescription drug expenditures than those in high-income families, even after controlling for insurance status. Children who are covered by Medicaid had comparable prescription drug expenditures to children who are covered by private insurance.

Conclusion.Socioeconomic characteristics such as race, insurance status, and family income levels had significant impact on pediatric prescription drug expenditures, even after controlling for the influences of health status and medical conditions.

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