Prescription Drugs: 7 Out Of 10 Americans Take At Least One, Study Finds

06/19/2013 06:28 pm ET | Updated Jun 20, 2013
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A new study from Mayo Clinic researchers reveals how many Americans are on prescription drugs -- and it's a lot of us.

The study, published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, shows that seven out of 10 Americans take at least one prescription drug. The most commonly prescribed drug is antibiotics -- taken by 17 percent of Americans -- followed by antidepressants and opioids -- each taken by 13 percent of Americans.

"Often when people talk about health conditions they're talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes," study researcher Jennifer St. Sauver, Ph.D., who is a member of the Mayo Clinic Population Health Program, said in a statement. "However, the second most common prescription was for antidepressants -- that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on. And the third most common drugs were opioids, which is a bit concerning considering their addicting nature."

The findings are based on data from the Rochester Epidemiology Project, in which medical providers in Olmsted county, Minn. share their patients' medical records with researchers.

Other findings in the report:

- More than half of Americans take two prescription mediations, and 20 percent of Americans are on at least five prescription medications.
- The number of people taking prescription drugs has increased to 48 percent in 2007-2008, from 44 percent in 1999-2000.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs are prescribed to 11 percent of people in the study.
- Vaccines are prescribed to 11 percent of people in the study.
- Vaccines, anti-asthma drugs and antibiotics are the most common kinds of drugs prescribed to people younger than 19.
- More women than men receive prescription medications.
- Antidepressant prescriptions are more common among women than men, and are most common among women ages 50 to 64 (an age group in which nearly 25 percent of women take antidepressants).

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