Survey Finds Widespread Use Of Medications Among Adults
Fifty percent of Americans take at least one prescription drug in a given week, while 81% take either a prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, vitamin or herbal supplement, according to a new survey published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Bloomberg News/Boston Globe reports that the study is based on a survey of 2,590 adults who were not in nursing homes or hospitals, conducted in 1998 and 1999 by researchers at the Boston University School of Public Health. "The big picture is that most Americans are taking a lot of drugs," David Kaufman, an epidemiologist at the school and lead author of the study, said (Bloomberg News/Boston Globe, 1/16). When extrapolated to the American public, the survey results indicate that 169 million people take at least one medication in a given week. The survey also found that 25% of respondents had taken five medications or more during the preceding week. Women age 65 and older had the highest prevalence of use, with 12% taking at least 10 medications and 23% taking at least 5 prescription medications. In addition, 14% of respondents reported taking an herbal supplement, while 40% said they took either a vitamin or a mineral. In addition, 16% of prescription drug users also said they had taken an herbal supplement in the same week. According to researchers, the latter finding raises concern about complications from mixing these two types of medications, as an "increasing numbe[r] of reports describe clinically serious interactions between prescription drugs and [herbal supplements] and ... concern has grown that the problem of interactions may be substantial but unrecognized." The study recommends that physicians inquire about their patients' use of herbal supplements to avoid possible interactions with prescription drugs (Kaufman et al., JAMA, 1/16). The full study is available at http://jama.ama-assn.org/issues/v287n3/rfull/joc11123.html.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.