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May 14th, 2014
02:24 PM ET

50% of Americans take prescription drugs

About half of all Americans take at least one prescription drug each month, and 10% take more than four, according to a new government report.

"Health, United States, 2013" is an annual report on the nation’s health prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. This year’s report includes a special section on prescription drugs.

Here are a few key facts from that section:

We spend a lot on prescription drugs. In 2011, Americans spent $263 billion on prescription drugs, which accounts for 9.7% of all national health expenditures (up from 5.6% in 1990).

Pharmaceutical companies aren't relying on doctors to sell their pills. Spending on direct-to-consumer advertising for all drugs more than tripled between 1996 and 2005 to $4.2 billion, according to the report.

Americans are depressed. Adults' use of antidepressants increased more than fourfold between the years of 1988-94 and 2007-10, from 2.4% to 10.8%.

Doctors are prescribing fewer useless antibiotics. Antibiotics prescribed during medical visits for cold symptoms declined 39% between 1995-96 and 2009-10. That's good news, as the overuse and misuse of antibiotics is contributing to antibiotic resistance worldwide and limiting our arsenal to fight infections.

Sinus infection? Antibiotics won't help

The prescription drug death epidemic is a big problem. Consumption of pain medications called opioid analgesics increased 300% between 1999 and 2010, and death rates in people age 15 and older involving these drugs more than tripled between 2000 and 2010.


soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. r

    I'd like to see that go to 75%.

    May 14, 2014 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jerry andrew

      American doctors are just legalized drug dealers that kill 91%+ of all Americans. Posted by FDA in 2006. They care about your money; not your health! Union doctors, like The Rockwood, must pay dues so; they weigh the size of your purse as you enter their building for service.

      May 18, 2014 at 08:07 | Report abuse |
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      May 18, 2014 at 11:30 | Report abuse |
  2. rick

    Holy $ h i t !
    I'm 60 & I don't take a single Rx

    May 14, 2014 at 18:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ella

      Well Rick, then you're damn lucky!

      May 15, 2014 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
    • Artemis MA

      60 here as well, and no prescription drugs - and I do realize that to date I am lucky.

      May 15, 2014 at 22:10 | Report abuse |
    • Kat

      I'm 20 and need five. You probably don't need any because they weren't as available when you were young so all the folks who need them nowadays would have died. Think about it this way, you likely had at least one classmate die per year in school if you lived in a rural area, I grew up in a similar rural area and had two people from my entire school die before I graduated high school.

      October 2, 2014 at 16:41 | Report abuse |
  3. J

    Birth control pills are prescription medication.....

    May 14, 2014 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. account killer!

    LOL, so right now there are 2 of us in the room but neither of us are on any meds. That ruins your premise right there. Yesterday, I was in the room with 4 people, none of US were on any meds either. That's a double-whammy against your statistics.

    May 15, 2014 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Lojack

      I'm in a room by myself and I take prescription meds, so that's 100%

      May 15, 2014 at 12:56 | Report abuse |
    • Karen Sien

      You arent the only people in the country. There are 318,131,106. Those 5 people don't count for much.

      May 29, 2014 at 16:57 | Report abuse |
  5. Portlandtony

    Considering almost 1/3 of Americans are over 50 and the fact that quite a few of our youngsters are on ADHD meds, that along with prescription birth control pills and the proliferation of Statins as a preventative, it's a wonder everyone is not on drugs of some sort!

    May 18, 2014 at 20:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. chrissy

    True @ portland tony and hello again...its been awhile! Im also gonna guess these numbers take into account the enhancement stimulants being prescribed on a very large scale eh? Why dont you do an article on how many prescriptions that are for real health reasons before everyone starts condemming those of us who DO need real meds for VERY real reasons!!!

    May 23, 2014 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
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    June 11, 2014 at 00:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. konnorkruse

    I agree. Prescription drugs are being used today because the health in America is getting worse. There has to be a reason Americans use of antidepressants grew four times greater in those years.

    June 11, 2014 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Stephanie Salazar

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    June 27, 2014 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tom

    http://freeprescriptioncard.com/ let's you print a free card that saves up to 74% of prescription drugs & is accepted at over 62,000 pharmacies nationwide!

    July 8, 2014 at 17:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Kat

    Considering birth control is a prescription, I'd like to hope so. And for those of you who are hating on the rest of us who have to take pharms to stay alive, you and your big pharma fears can stuff it. I'm not dependant on over five medications that keep me alive because of big pharma, it's because my body decided to betray me and those "evil" drug companies are the only reason I'm still here and in the work force. (Though I will admit, I am on one medication because of side effects from another, but that one is an as needed med I only take when the side effect presents)

    October 2, 2014 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Parvez Gondal MD

    This is from a Mail Order Business OPTIMUMRX. I find it hard to believe the irresponsible asnswer from such a large company who is sending prescriptions drugs to millions of Americans.
    Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, the manufacturer we get our medications from will change from time to time and we cannot guarantee which manufacturer we will have at any given time. If you find that one medication manufacturer is not working for you, then you can check with your local pharmacy to see if they can accommodate this request.
    Original Message Follows: --------
    Name: PARVEZ GONDAL MD
    Comments: Last time you guys sent me losartan made in India. Do you have Losartan made in Canda, US, Australia or UK ?. I dont want any meds made in Asia. If you can not send me please let me know and I will transfer my prescriptions and buy from some one else who can provide me with the real meds. India was recently visited by US Officials as India is sending substandard meds in to US. How can you sell that stuff and not have a huge liability ?

    December 9, 2014 at 13:51 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.