Americans Taking Prescription Drugs in Greater Numbers

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.