In a study titled “Trends in Prescription Drug Use Among Adults in the United States From 1999-2012” a recent issue of Medscape Multispeciality announced that researchers retrospectively analyzed the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey database to determine if the prevalence of prescription drug use changed from 1999-2000 to 2011-2012.
Some of the main findings included:
- The percentage of adults reporting use of any prescription drugs increased from 51% in 1999-2000 to 59% in 2011-2012.
- The use increased as people became older.
- Polypharmacy (use of five or more prescription drugs) increased from 10% to 15% among those 40-64 years old and from 24% to 39% for those over 65 years.
- The 10 most commonly used individual drugs in 2011-2012 were simvastatin, lisinopril, levothyroxine, metoprolol, metformin, hydrochlorothiazide, omeprazole, amlodipine, atorvastatin, and albuterol.
All of the reported increases from 1999 to 2012 were not explained by changes in the age distribution of the population.
The article went on to note that physicians working in a hospital have likely noticed that many of those admitted for inpatient surgery are taking multiple prescription medications. This study confirms the suspicion that a greater number of patients are on more medications than ever before.
The overall increase in drug use that was noted in this study may reflect several forces, including evolving medical practice patterns (e.g., advances in treatment or new clinical guidelines), drugs entering and exiting the market, changes to drug marketing and promotion, modifications in health policy or payment systems (e.g., implementation of Medicare Part D), or evolving health needs of the population.
A possible example of this is presented in the finding that 8 of the 10 most commonly used drugs in 2011-2012 treat components of the cardiometabolic syndrome, including hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia. As proton-pump inhibitors are likely to be prescribed for gastroesophageal reflux in overweight individuals, the increase in use of these four agents may reflect the growing prevalence of obesity.
The authors noted some of the study's limitations, which are worth considering. During their interviews, the subjects may not have recalled drugs used intermittently over the prior month compared with drugs used daily. Over-the-counter drug use was also not measured. Lastly, the database did not include institutionalized persons, such as those living in nursing homes, who also may be taking several different medications.
Source: Medscape from WebMD is a part of WebMD Health Professional Network that includes theHeart.org and eMedicine.com.