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Americans Are Taking More Prescription Drugs Than Ever

About three-fifths of American adults are taking prescription drugs, compared to about half of the adult population a decade ago.

A study published in JAMA this week shows that Americans are taking more prescription drugs than ever.

Almost 60 percent of adults were taking at least one prescription medication in the 2011-2012 survey year. That is a significant increase from just over 50 percent between 1999 and 2000.

More Drugs at Once:

In addition, more people are taking several medicines at once. Polypharmacy, the use of at least five prescription drugs, nearly doubled from 8 percent in 1999-2000 to 15 percent in 2011-2012.

You might assume that the increased use of prescriptions is because the population is aging and older adults are more likely to have chronic conditions that require treatment. Although that may be a factor, it is not the whole story, according to the authors.

There may be cultural effects at work that encourage people to accept or even embrace prescription drugs. We can’t rule out the effects of direct-to-consumer advertising on television and in other media.

JAMA, Nov. 3, 2015

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.”.
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