Prescription drug use rises 10%, spending more than doubles in one decade

Prescription drug use rises 10%, spending more than doubles in one decade

The number of people in the USA who took one prescription medication in a one month period rose 10% during the decade up to the end of 2008. Americans spent US234.1 billion on prescription medications in 2008, more than double the figure in 1999, according to a report published by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

A prescription drug or medication is one that requires a doctor's prescription, as opposed to an OTC (over-the-counter) drug, which can be purchased straight from the pharmacy without having to see the doctor first.

Multiple prescription drug use increased over the same period, while the use of at least five prescription medications rose by 70%, the report reveals.

By the end of 2008 over 50% of all Americans had used at least one prescription drug, while 10% used at least five.

Approximately 20% of all American children used one or more prescription drugs, compared to 90% of individuals aged 60 years or more.

The report adds that females are more likely to use prescription medications than males.

Prescription drug use by people with either no healthcare cover or inadequate healthcare cover was lower than other people's.

The most commonly prescribed drugs were:

  • Asthma medications for children
  • Central nervous system stimulants for adolescents
  • Antidepressants for middle-aged patients
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs (statins) for older patients
  • Antihypertensive drugs (for high blood pressure) for older individuals
The authors of the report wrote:

These patterns reflect the main chronic diseases common at these ages, but may also likely reflect more aggressive treatments for chronic medical conditions such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure as recommended in the updated clinical guidelines.

The report also revealed that nearly 40% of older people used at least five prescriptions during a four-week period.

Regarding prescribing for seniors, the report commented:

Excessive prescribing or polypharmacy is also an acknowledged safety risk for older Americans, and a continuing challenge that may contribute to adverse drug events, medication compliance issues, and increased health care costs.

"Prescription drug use continues to increase: U.S. prescription drug data for 2007-2008. NCHS data brief, no 42."

National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.

Qiuping Gu, M.D., Ph.D.; Charles F. Dillon, M.D., Ph.D.; and Vicki L. Burt, Sc.M., R.N.

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Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice