Eighty eight percent of Americans 60 years or older take at least one prescription drug and more than two-thirds of this age group take five or more, according to a report by the National Center for Health Statistics. Spending for prescription drugs totaled $234.1 billion in 2008 — more than double what was spent in 1999.
The National Center for Health Statistics excerpted elements of its National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys to prepare the report:
– Over the last 10 years, the percentage of Americans who took at least one prescription drug in the past month increased from 44 percent to 48 percent. The use of two or more drugs increased from 25 percent to 31 percent. The use of five or more drugs increased from 6 percent to 11 percent.
– Those who were without a regular place for health care, health insurance or prescription drug benefit used fewer prescription drugs.
– The most commonly used types of drugs included: Asthma medicines for children, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents, antidepressants for middle-aged adults, and cholesterol-lowering drugs for older Americans.
But, no drug is without consequences, and those very popular cholesterol medications may have serious side effects such as memory loss. And if one of those prescription drugs happens to be an opioid, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) has called for increased training for prescribers. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths caused by opioid analgesics more than tripled between 1999 and 2006. More than 40,000 Americans die each year of prescription overdose, and in some states opioids cause more deaths among young people than motor vehicle accidents.
ASIPP has issued prescribing guidelines.
*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*