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Mayo Clinic Study: Nearly 7 in 10 Americans Are on Prescription Drugs

Antibiotics, antidepressants, opioids top list (June 19)

Nearly 70% of Americans are taking at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two, Mayo Clinic researchers say. Antibiotics, antidepressants, and pain-killing opioids are most commonly prescribed, their study found. Twenty percent of patients are on five or more prescription medications, according to the findings, published online in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

The statistics from the Rochester Epidemiology Project in Olmsted County, Minn., are comparable with those elsewhere in the U.S., says study author Jennifer St. Sauver, PhD.

Seventeen percent of the people studied were prescribed antibiotics; 13% were taking antidepressants; and 13% were on opioids. Drugs to control high blood pressure came in fourth (11%), and vaccines were fifth (11%). Drugs were prescribed to both men and women across all age groups, except hypertension drugs, which were seldom used before age 30.

Overall, women and older adults received more prescriptions. Vaccines, antibiotics, and anti-asthma drugs were most commonly prescribed in people younger than 19. Antidepressants and opioids were most common among young and middle-aged adults. Cardiovascular drugs were most commonly prescribed in older adults. Women received more prescriptions than men across several drug groups, especially antidepressants; nearly 1 in 4 women aged 50 to 64 were taking an antidepressant.

For several drug groups, use increased with advancing age.

“As you get older, you tend to get more prescriptions, and women tend to get more prescriptions than men,” St. Sauver says.

Prescription drug use has increased steadily in the U.S. for the past decade. The percentage of people who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44% in 1999–2000 to 48% in 2007–2008. Spending on prescription drugs reached $250 billion in 2009 (the year studied) and accounted for 12% of total personal health care expenditures. Drug-related spending is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, the researchers say.

Source: Mayo Clinic; June 19, 2013.

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