According to a report, "Health, United States 2004," from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans are taking prescription drugs than ever. Just a decade ago the report noted that 39% of Americans were on at least one prescription drug. As of the year 2000, that number has jumped to 44%. Additionally, the report noted that seventeen percent are on three or more medications.
Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association notes, "The fact that almost half of Americans are using prescription drugs is pretty astounding." He continued, "Our pharmaceuticals are playing a much larger role in our health care than they were 10, 20 years ago."
Two reasons noted in the report for the possible increase are an increase in insurance coverage and direct to consumer advertising by the drug companies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC) private health insurance covered nearly half of prescription drug costs in 2002, up from 25% in 1990.
The CDC report noted that the increases were most noted with cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants and blood-glucose/sugar regulators between 1996 and 2002. The CDC report also showed that usage of anti-depressants almost tripled since the late 1980s. Presently, 10 percent of women and 4 percent of men are on drug therapy for what was termed a debilitating depression. Three times as many whites took antidepressants as blacks or Mexicans, according to the CDC.
The report also noted that the older Americans get, the more dependant they become on prescription medications. In the age group of people 65 and over, 84 percent take at least one prescription medication, up from 74 percent a decade earlier. Additionally, nearly half the elderly take three or more prescriptions, up from 35 percent ten years ago.