Almost Half of Americans Use Prescription Medications

Prescription medications for cardiovascular disease and cholesterol issues used by many Americans

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Take a peek in nearly anyone's bathroom cabinet and it's clear — prescription medications are common in the US. But just how common are they, and what types of medications are we using?

For a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics, researchers analyzed the use of prescription medications in the US.

The report showed that during 2007-2010, almost half of Americans had used a prescription medication in the past month. Many of these Americans were using medications for issues related to heart issues and cholesterol levels.

"Follow your doctor's instructions for using prescription and over-the-counter medications."

This report, titled "Health, United States, 2013," provides an annual look at a variety of health topics in the US, and this year included a section devoted to prescription medications. The data used for the report came from a variety of sources, including federal and state governmental sources and private sector sources.

After analyzing the data, CDC reported that during 2007-2010, nearly half of Americans reported they had taken at least one prescription medication during the previous 30 days. The rates of use increased with age, as the report found that one out of four children had taken a prescription medication in the past 30 days, while the same was true for nine out of 10 adults aged 65 and older.

The two most commonly used types of prescription medications for adults included cardiovascular medications aimed at treating high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease and medications that work to lower cholesterol. In fact, CDC reported that 17.7 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 64 had taken at least one cardiovascular medication during the past 30 days.

For those over the age of 65, it was estimated that 70.2 percent took a cardiovascular prescription and 46.7 percent took a cholesterol-lowering medication in the past 30 days.

"The use of cholesterol-lowering drugs among those aged 18-64 has increased more than six-fold since 1988-1994, due in part to the introduction and acceptance of statin drugs to lower cholesterol," explained CDC. For adults over age 65, the use of cholesterol-lowering medication increased seven-fold since 1988-1994.

The other top prescription medications for adults under age 65 included analgesics (painkillers) and antidepressant medications. Antidepressant use among adults over age 18 increased from 2.4 percent during 1988-1994 to 10.8 percent during 2007-2010.

For those over age 65, analgesics also were common, along with blood thinners, which reduce the risk of blood clots, and diabetes prescriptions.

While some medications, like cholesterol medications and antidepressants, saw an increase in recent years, others declined in use. This decline occurred in the use of antibiotic medications, whose rate of prescriptions for cold symptoms dropped 39 percent between 1995-1996 and 2009-2010.

And while prescription medications are meant to help people heal, there were some statistics on cases in which they caused harm, including deaths from painkillers.

"Drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics among those aged 15 and over more than tripled in the past decade, from 1.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 1999-2000 to 6.6 in 2009-2010," explained CDC.

This report was released May 13 by CDC. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
May 13, 2014
Last Updated:
May 15, 2014