HC Statistics Pharmaceuticals

Prescription drug use over a lifetime

That is the topic of an interesting paper by Ho (2023).

Prescription drug use has reached historic highs in the United States—a trend linked to increases in medicalization, institutional factors relating to the health care and pharmaceutical industries, and population aging and growing burdens of chronic disease. Despite the high and rising prevalence of use, no estimates exist of the total number of years Americans can expect to spend taking prescription drugs over their lifetimes. This study provides the first estimates of life course patterns of prescription drug use using data from the 1996–2019 Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys, the Human Mortality Database, and the National Center for Health Statistics. Newborns in 2019 could be expected to take prescription drugs for roughly half their lives: 47.54 years for women and 36.84 years for men. The number of years individuals can expect to take five or more drugs increased substantially. Americans also experienced particularly dramatic increases in years spent taking statins, antihypertensives, and antidepressants. There are also important differences in prescription drug use by race and ethnicity: non-Hispanic Whites take the most, Hispanics take the least, and non-Hispanic Blacks fall in between these extremes. Americans are taking drugs over a wide and expanding swathe of the life course, a testament to the centrality of prescription drugs in Americans’ lives today.

Hat tip to Kevin Lewis.