New Study: 70% Of Americans Take At Least One Prescription Drug

Do you take any prescription drugs?

If you answered “no” to today’s question, then you should know that if you live in the United States you are in the minority. According to a new study 70% of Americans are taking at least one prescription medication. We have written often about prescription drugs and prescription drug abuse, so we thought it would be helpful to provide information about this latest study.  Keep in mind this study was not focused on prescription drug abuse, but the prescribing practices in America.

Mayo Clinic study looks at drug prescribing patterns

The results of a new study were published online today, June 21, 2013, in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings journal: Age and Sex Patterns of Drug Prescribing in a Define American Population. The lead author was Jennifer St. Sauver, Ph.D. She is a member of the Mayo Clinic Population Health Program in the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery.

The study’s parameters

  • Researchers looked at population-based drug prescription records for Olmsted County population in 2009.
  • Records were obtained using the Rochester Epidemiology Project medical records linkage system. 
  • The number of patients in the study was 142,377
  • Researchers classified the drug prescriptions using RxNorm codes and grouped them using the National Drug File -Reference Terminology

The study’s results

  • Nearly 70% of American take at least one prescription drug
  • More than 50% take two prescriptions
  • About 20% of those studied take five or more prescription medications. 
  • The most common prescriptions are for antibiotics (17%), antidepressant (13%) and painkilling opioids (13%)
  • Drugs to lower cholesterol followed with (11%) and vaccines (11%)
  • Drugs for high blood pressure were seldom prescribed before age 30
  • Women and older adults receive the most prescriptions
  • Antidepressants and opioids are most common with young and middle aged adults
  • Those younger than 19 commonly were prescribed vaccines, antibiotics and anti-asthma drugs

It is important to note that the numbers from this study (reviewing statistics from 2009) are in contrast to statistics from just a few years ago. For example, from 1999-2000 44% of Americans took one prescription medication; by 2007-2008 that percentage had increased to 48%. 

Comments from lead author

Dr. St. Sauver offers her comments and concerns, as quoted by CBS News:

“Often when people talk about health conditions they’re talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. However, the second most common prescription was for antidepressants — that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on. And the third most common drugs were opioids, which is a bit concerning considering their addicting nature.”

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