New Atlas Maps Prescription Drug Use
A new nationwide drug atlas has found geographical patterns in prescription drug use, USA Today reports. Researchers at the St. Louis, Mo.-based pharmacy benefits management firm Express Scripts tracked prescriptions for 527,512 adults and 194,538 children whose insurance plans covered prescription drugs in 2000. Participants were chosen randomly from across the country. Express Scripts found that prescription drug use was higher in the South and Midwest, where around 70% of people filled at least one prescription drug in the last year, compared to the Northeast and West, where 60% of people used a prescription drug. Specifically, Kansas had the highest rate of prescription drug use at 71%, while California had the lowest rate at 58%. According to Express Scripts' Brenda Motheral, some of the elevated rates, "particularly for heart disease and diabetes drugs, reflect a higher rate of disease in the South." However, USA Today reports that a "lack of consensus in medical circles on the best treatment" for some ailments, including estrogen for post-menopausal women and stimulants for children with ADHD, could also explain regional differences in prescription drug use. According to Deborah Freund, a medical economist at Syracuse University, another factor behind lower prescription drug use is that managed care companies in some regions "discourag[e]" prescriptions for certain drugs to lower cost. However, Motheral "disagrees" and said that pharmaceutical advertising "may play a bigger role in spurring patient demands." The AARP's John Rother said, "As a nation, we spend an awful lot on these drugs, with very little idea what's the appropriate use" (Vergano, USA Today, 1/7).