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7 in 10 Americans Take Prescription Drugs

Update Date: Jun 19, 2013 04:23 PM EDT

Seven out of 10 Americans are on at least one prescription drug, more than half take at least two prescription medications, and a fifth are on five or more drugs.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that antibiotics, antidepressants and painkilling opioids are the most commonly prescribed medications.

Researchers say the latest findings, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are important because they offer insight into prescribing practices in the United States.  Investigators noted that the statistics used in the study are similar to statistics in other parts of the United States.

"Often when people talk about health conditions they're talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes," researcher Jennifer St. Sauver, a member of the Mayo Clinic Population Health Program in the Mayo Clinic Center for the Science of Health Care Delivery, said in a statement.

"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," she said.

Study results revealed 17 percent of people were prescribed antibiotics, 13 percent were taking antidepressants and 13 percent were on opiods. Medication to control high blood pressure and vaccines came in fourth and fifth place, with 11 percent of participants using them.

Researchers said the drugs were prescribed to both men and women across all age groups, except high blood pressure drugs, which are rarely prescribed before the age of 30.

Vaccines, antibiotics and anti-asthma drugs are most commonly prescribed in people younger than 10. Antidepressants and opioids are most commonly prescribed in young and middle-aged adults and cardiovascular drugs are most commonly prescribed in older adults.

Researchers found that women receive more prescriptions than men across several drug groups, particularly antidepressants. The study found that nearly one in four women ages 50 to 64 are on an antidepressant.

Older adults also receive more prescriptions.  Researchers explain that use generally increases with age for several drug groups,

"As you get older you tend to get more prescriptions, and women tend to get more prescriptions than men," St. Sauver explained.

Prescription drug use has increased steadily in the U.S. for the past decade, and drug-related spending is expected to continue to grow in the coming year.

Researchers said that percentage of people on at least one prescription drug increased from 44 percent in 2000 to 48 percent in 2008.  Spending on prescription drugs also reached $250 billion in 2009, and accounted for 12 percent of total personal health care expenditures in the United States.

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