Nearly 3 in 5 American adults take a prescription drug, up markedly since 2000 because of much higher use of almost every type of medication, including antidepressants and treatments for high cholesterol and diabetes.
In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that the prevalence of prescription drug use among people 20 and older had risen to 59 percent in 2012 from 51 percent just a dozen years earlier. During the same period, the percentage of people taking five or more prescription drugs nearly doubled, to 15 percent from 8 percent.
One likely factor driving the increased use: obesity.
Researchers noted that eight of the 10 most commonly used drugs in the United States are for hypertension, heart failure, diabetes and other elements of the “cardiometabolic syndrome.” In addition, another frequently prescribed drug treats gastroesophageal reflux, a widespread condition among the overweight or obese.
Elizabeth Kantor, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and co-author of the JAMA study, cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from the data. Although prescription drug use is increasing across most drug types, the reasons probably vary from drug to drug, she said. New medications hit the market, others lose their patent protection and public health officials revise their recommendations. Major policy changes have occurred, such as the implementation of Medicare Part D in 2006. All those factors can alter prescribing patterns and access to drugs.
“There’s so much going on in each area, it’s hard to draw concrete conclusions,” Kantor said. “Each drug class stands on its own.”
The country’s aging population would seem to be one obvious explanation, she noted. Yet after researchers adjusted for age, the trends toward increased prescription use held true.
(Click here to read the full article, written by Brady Dennis, Washington Post)