Survey reveals U.S. Rx, OTC medication use

April 1, 2001

Pharmaceutical Representative

According to a recently released survey by the Bethesda, MD-based American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, over half (51%) of American adults take two or more medications each day. In addition, almost half (46%) of Americans take at least one prescription medicine every day, while more than a quarter (28%) take multiple prescription medications daily. The survey of 1,000 Americans focused on consumers' use of prescription and nonprescription medications, including herbal supplements and vitamins.

According to a recently released survey by the Bethesda, MD-based American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, over half (51%) of American adults take two or more medications each day. In addition, almost half (46%) of Americans take at least one prescription medicine every day, while more than a quarter (28%) take multiple prescription medications daily. The survey of 1,000 Americans focused on consumers' use of prescription and nonprescription medications, including herbal supplements and vitamins.

Medication reporting

The survey, which also probed for information about whether hospital patients report medication use to healthcare providers, revealed that 8% of respondents do not inform hospital personnel about medications they are taking. Most respondents who report their medication use do so by telling a doctor or nurse (39%) or both (18%). Only 3% of respondents said they bring their medications with them to the hospital.

Rates of prescription medication use were highest among older Americans. Seventy-nine percent of respondents age 65 or over reported taking one prescription medication each day, compared with 63% of respondents age 55 to 64, 52% of those age 45 to 54, and 28% of those 44 or younger. Americans age 65 or over who use prescription medications take an average of four each day.

Among respondents who reported using a prescription medication in the past week, the majority (61%) indicated that the medication was for a long-term health condition. Twenty-four percent said they were treating a recurring health problem, while 10% indicated that they were treating a short-term, acute health condition.

Nonprescription use

Along with prescription medications, consumers are also taking multiple nonprescription drugs, herbal supplements and vitamins. According to the survey, 58% of respondents reported taking an average of two nonprescription medications in the past week. Nearly one-third indicated that they take an average of two nonprescription medications every day.

When asked about use of herbal supplements or vitamins, 39% reported taking an average of four in the past week. More than one-third (40%) reported taking an average of two herbal supplements or vitamins daily.

"Our survey shows that consumers are simultaneously using a variety of prescription and nonprescription medications, as well as herbal supplements and vitamins," said ASHP President Mick L. Hunt. "We want patients to be aware of the potential for drug interactions that can occur when mixing all of these remedies, especially when taking multiple medications each day. Patients and customers should know that they can always turn to their pharmacist for answers to their medication-related questions." PR

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