For the first time, it appears that more than half of all insured Americans are
taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems, a study
shows. The most widely used drugs are those to lower high blood pressure and
cholesterol — problems often linked to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. The
numbers were gathered last year by Medco Health Solutions Inc., which manages
prescription benefits for about one in five Americans. The report notes that
Americans buy much more medicine per person than any other country. But it was
unclear how their prescriptions compare to those of insured people elsewhere.
Medco’s data show that last year, 51 percent of American children and adults
were taking one or more prescription drugs for a chronic condition, up from 50
percent the previous four years and 47 percent in 2001. Most of the drugs are
taken daily, although some are needed less often. The company examined
prescription records from 2001 to 2007 of a representative sample of 2.5 million
customers, from newborns to the elderly. Medication use for chronic problems
was seen in all demographic groups:
- Almost two-thirds of women 20 and older.
- One in four children and teenagers.
- 52 percent of adult men.
- Three out of four people 65 or older.
Among seniors, 28 percent of women and nearly 22 percent of men take five or
more medicines regularly.