Prescription Use Up and Here’s Why, Say Researchers

Poor Handwriting Leads to Patient's Death
Poor Handwriting Leads to Patient’s Death
Researchers report an increase in overall prescription drug use among adults in the United States between 1999-2012. Findings from the study are published in JAMA.

Researchers report an increase in overall prescription drug use among adults in the United States between 1999–2012. Findings from the study are published in JAMA

Elizabeth D. Kantor, PhD, MPH, formerly of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, and colleagues looked at trends in prescription drug use using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). A total of 37,959 study participants aged ≥20 years were included across seven NAHNES cycles (1999–2000 to 2011–2012). For each cycle, study authors analyzed use of prescription drugs in the past 30 days in general and by drug class. 

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The prevalence of prescription drug use rose from 51% in 1999–2000 to 59% in 2011–2012. The prevalence of polypharmacy rose from 8% to 15%. Specifically, the use of hypertension treatments increased from 20% to 27%; hyperlipidemia treatments from 7% to 17%; and depression treatments from 7% to 13%. In general, an increased use was seen for 11 out of 18 drug classes consumed by >2.5% of the population at any point over the study duration.

The increase was significant among individuals aged 40–64 years and ≥65 years, but not among individuals aged 20–39 years. 

Simvastatin (7.9%) was the most commonly used single drug in 2011–2012, a marked increase from 2.0% in 1999–2000. Other commonly used drugs included lisinopril, levothyroxine, metoprolol, metformin, hydrochlorothiazide, omeprazole, amlodipine, atorvastatin, and albuterol. All of these drugs with the exception of atorvastatin, showed an increase in use over the study period. 

“Eight of the 10 most commonly used drugs in 2011–2012 are used to treat components of the cardiometabolic syndrome, including hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. Another is a proton-pump inhibitor used for gastroesophageal reflux, a condition more prevalent among individuals who are overweight or obese. Thus, the increase in use of some agents may reflect the growing need for treatment of complications associated with the increase in overweight and obesity,” the authors write.

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