Americans take too many prescription drugs—and they don’t even know it. A National Check Your Meds Day could help.
This is emphasized by a recent Consumer Reports article, “America’s Love Affair with Prescription Medication,” based on a nationally representative survey of 1,947 adults. The survey found that 55% of respondents take at least one prescription medication and 75% took at least one OTC medication regularly.
According to Lisa Gill, Deputy Editor for Consumer Reports, the survey only counted long-term prescriptions (those lasting longer than three months) and didn’t include dietary supplements, meaning that the actual number of products taken may be higher.
There appears to be a growing trend. A QuintilesIMS report showed that the total number of prescriptions has risen 85% since 1997, while the population has grown only 21%. Data from the CDC show that the number of Americans taking five medications has tripled in the last 20 years. In the Consumer Reports survey, more than a third of people 55 and older were taking five medications, and 9% were taking more than 10.
Much of this medication is necessary. But the price tag for unnecessary medication is huge—more than $200 billion per year. In what Gill called a “spot check”—when a pharmacist examined the medication lists for a random group of 20 people taking at least five medications—only two had lists without any problems.
So why all the unnecessary drugs? Consumer Reports found that 53% of patients get their drugs from more than one health-care provider. Perhaps more worryingly only 50% had ever asked their doctor to review their list of medications and 35% had never had any health-care professional examine their lists.
The solution? Consumer Reports is sponsoring “National Check Your Meds Day” on October 21. Gill said, “My hope is that people take their meds to pharmacists they trust,” she said. “Pharmacists are a terrific resource” for helping to identify problem medications.
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