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U.S. Prescription Drug Use Rate has Increased, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 03, 2015 04:22 PM EST

More Americans are taking prescription drugs than before, a new study found.

The study found that from 1999 to 2011, the rate of adults who took prescription drugs rose to 59 percent. More specifically, the rates for drugs that treated high blood pressure and high cholesterol increased from 20 percent to 27 percent and seven percent to 17 percent, respectively. The rate for antidepressants also increased from seven percent to 13 percent.

The use of at least five prescription drugs at the same time, known as "polypharmcy," increased from eight percent to 15 percent during the time frame.

"Even though increased use of some medications are beneficial from a public health perspective, the increased use of polypharmacy needs attention," said Dr. Suzie Bertisch, who was not involved with the study, commented. "While multiple medications are indicated in some patients, the potential interactions and adverse effects need to be monitored."

The 10 most common prescription drugs were simvastatin, lisinopril, levothyroxine, metoprolol, metformin, hydrochlorothiazide, omeprazole, amlodipine, atorvastatin and albuterol.

The research team had examined the answers of seven National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), which included a total of 37,000 adults aged 20 and above. The survey asked the adults about their prescription drug use within the past 30 days.

Lead author Elizabeth D. Kantor, who is currently at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, stated that although they did not find a reason why the prescription drug use has increased, she argued that since the population age is increasing within the U.S. and older people tend to take more prescription drugs, the rate could continue to increase over the next few years.

Kantor did acknowledge to Reuter Health, "Something beyond the aging of the U.S. population appears to be driving the increase in prescription drug use."

Kantor and her colleagues believe that factors such as new drugs and cost most likely contributed to the rate increase. The team added that the increase they found for prescription drug use was only significantly for the age group of 40 and above.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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