An April 17, 2005 Associated Press (AP) story printed in many publications reports that Americans are the most medicated population in the world. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 130 million Americans swallow, inject, inhale, infuse, spray and pat on prescription medications every month.vv
According to IMS Health, a pharmaceutical consulting company, over the past decade the usage of prescription drugs by Americans has increased by 2/3rds to an incredible 3.5 billion prescriptions per year. Additionally, IMS Health reports that their polling finds that Americans devour even more nonprescription drugs.
The AP story notes that the consequences to this large usage are grave. The article points out that landmark medical studies of the 1990s suggest that well over 125,000 people die from drug reactions and mistakes each year. They note that pharmaceuticals are the fourth-leading national cause of death after heart disease, cancer and stroke.
When placed in perspective, the volume of medication usage in the US becomes more evident. The article notes Americans spent as much on drugs last year as they did for gasoline. According to drug industry consultants the pharmaceutical industry did more than $250 billion worth of sales last year, the vast majority in prescription medications. That translated into $850 for every American.
Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and author of "The Truth About the Drug Companies", commented, "We are taking way too many drugs for dubious or exaggerated ailments." He continued, "What the drug companies are doing now is promoting drugs for long-term use to essentially healthy people. Why? Because it's the biggest market."