CDC: Half of all Americans take one or more prescription medications

ATLANTA — About half of all Americans reported taking one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days during 2007-2010, and 1-in-10 took five or more, according to "Health, United States, 2013," the government’s annual, comprehensive report on the nation’s health that was released Wednesday. Use increased with age: 1-in-4 children took one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days compared to 9-in-10 adults aged 65 years and older.

The annual growth in spending on retail prescription drugs slowed from 14.7% in 2001 to 2.9% in 2011.

Cardiovascular agents — used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease or kidney disease — and cholesterol-lowering drugs were two of the most commonly used classes of prescription drugs among adults aged 18 years to 64 years and 65 years and older from 2007 to 2010. Nearly 18% of adults ages 18 years to 64 years took at least one cardiovascular agent in the past 30 days. Among adults ages 65 years and older, 70.2% took at least one cardiovascular agent and 46.7% took a cholesterol-lowering drug in the past 30 days from 2007 to 2010. The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs in this age group has increased more than seven-fold since 1988 to 1994.

The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among those ages 18 years to 64 years has increased more than six-fold since 1988 through 1994, due in part to the introduction and acceptance of statin drugs to lower cholesterol. Other commonly used prescription drugs among adults ages 18 years to 64 years were analgesics to relieve pain and antidepressants. The use of antidepressants among adults ages 18 years and older increased more than four-fold, from 2.4% to 10.8% between 1988 to 1994 and 2007 to 2010. 

Other commonly used prescription drugs among those ages 65 years and older included analgesics, blood thinners and diabetes medications.

The prescribing of antibiotics during medical visits for cold symptoms declined 39% between 1995 to 1996 and 2009 to 2010. 

Drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics among those ages 15 years and older more than tripled in the past decade, from 1.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 1999 to 2000 to 6.6 in 2009 to 2010.

In 2012, adults ages 18 years to 64 years who were uninsured for all or part of the past year were more than four times as likely to report not getting needed prescription drugs due to cost as adults who were insured for the whole year (22.4% compared to 5%). 

This is the 37th annual report prepared for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. 

"Health, United States, 2013" features 135 tables on key health measures through 2012 from a number of sources within the federal government and in the private sector. The tables cover a range of topics, including birth rates and reproductive health, life expectancy and leading causes of death, health risk behaviors, healthcare utilization, and insurance coverage and health expenditures.  

The full report is available at CDC.gov/nchs.

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