Americans Taking More Prescription Drugs Than Ever

A new survey finds 55% of Americans regularly take a prescription medicine – and they’re taking more than ever. Those who use prescription drugs take four, on average, and many take over-the-counter drugs. But many of those pills may be unnecessary and might do more harm than good. Among those who take prescription drugs, 53% get them from more than one health care provider, which increases the risk of adverse drug effects. More than a third say no provider has reviewed their medicines to see if all are necessary. Forty-nine percent of survey respondents asked their prescribers whether they could stop taking a drug, and 71% were able to eliminate at least one.

The number of prescriptions filled for American adults and children rose 85% between 1997 and 2016, from 2.4 billion to 4.5 billion a year. During that time the U.S. population rose 21%. In 2014, nearly 1.3 million people sought emergency room treatment for adverse drug effects, and about 124,000 people died, according to U.S. government data.

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