US Prescription Drug Use Soars

Close to 70 per cent of US residents are on at least one prescription drug course, with over 50 per cent prescribed two or more drugs, according to data just published by the Mayo Clinic.

Its findings show that painkillers and antidepressants dominate the most-prescribed US drugs lists and, perhaps most astonishingly, in 20 per cent of cases, no less than five different prescriptions per person are in place.

The research team makes the point that these discoveries are extremely useful, since they give real insight into America’s key health issues. “Often when people talk about health conditions, they’re talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes”, explained Jennifer St. Sauver, who authored the Mayo Clinic drug prescribing trends study.

“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.”

US Drug Prescription Trends

Of the patients involved in the US drug prescription trends study, 17 per cent were on antibiotics, 13 per cent on antidepressants and 13 per cent on opioids. These were the top three most-prescribed drugs but in fourth place came blood-thinners/blood pressure management treatments (an 11 per cent share), followed up by vaccines (also 11 per cent).

No significant gender or age variations were found, save for the fact that it was unusual for people under 30 to be prescribed blood pressure management drugs.

The Mayo Clinic’s report illustrates a sharp spike in US prescription issue rates over the past 10 years. During the 1999-2000 period, 44 per cent of US residents took a minimum of one prescription drug: four per cent less than the present day. The report also states that, during 2009, overall US prescription drug spending rose to $250bn: 12 per cent of America’s total healthcare costs.

Funding for this study came from two sources: the Science of Health Care Delivery centre at the Mayo Clinic and the US National Institute on Aging.

Image copyright J. Troha – Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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