This used to be a DuPont mantra. And we all embraced it over the years as we wore synthetic fabric that hugged our bodies in stretch jeans and we took our prescription drugs. According to a recent article in JAMA, we are partaking in the latter more and more. So let me summarize last month’s article about the biostatistics that were garnered from multiple US medical centers with the catchy title “Trends in Prescription Drug Use Among Adults in the United States From 1999-2012″. (I want to add that the article has reams of tables which the editors and statisticians demanded to make it peer-review ready.)
Prescription drug use increased from 51% to 59% and the number of adults who are taking more than 5 medications increased from 8.2% to 15%. The most marked increase was in anti hypertension medications and lipid-lowering statins….Clearly modern medicine is attacking some of the root causes of heart disease and stroke. (Although I feel the need to add that no matter what chemistry offers, unless we can stop the smoking and obesity epidemic, we will not win this battle.) On a more cheerful note, we have increased our use of antidepressants. Use of narcotic pain relievers also increased but apparently stabilized after 2004 perhaps because of DEA enforcement.
Prescriptions for hormone therapy decreased especially after “The Women’s Health Initiative Hormone Therapy Trial” findings that came out in 2002. (The study scared women and their physicians about the potential risks of Premarin and Provera use. Despite the fact that there is a huge amount of new data and safer forms of both estrogen and progesterone, the long term effect of hormone concern is still reflected in hormone therapy prescriptions.)
The prevalence of diabetes has increased as US adults have become obese, and the use of anti diabetic drugs, especially insulin has also risen. Finally, the article mentions four more types of prescription medications that are prescribed more frequently: proton pump inhibitors for acid reflex (although many are now available over-the-counter), anticonvulsant drugs, muscle relaxants and bronchodilators.
As the baby boomers get older and develop chronic disorders (and now get Medicare Part B), there would be an expected increase in prescription drug use and “polypharmacy” or use of multiple meds. But an increase was also noted among adults aged 40 to 64. I hope this means we are getting better care, and healthier….Or are we just getting sicker?