Boots & Sabers

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2105, 03 Nov 15

Drugs Inc.

Wow. There’s still money in selling the fountain of youth.

Today, polypharmacy refers to people taking five or more prescription drugs. And, according to a paper Tuesday in JAMA, the number of Americans on such regimens has nearly doubled over a decade to 15% of adults.

Instead of snakes, the modern culprits more likely are societal conditions such as aging and obesity and possibly nonmedical factors such as increased Medicare coverage and the ever-present direct-to-consumer television ads.

Instead of flowers and honey, today’s most popular or fastest growing drugs include cholesterol-lowering statins, antidepressants and drugs to control diabetes, acid indigestion and high blood pressure.

The JAMA paper also found that, in addition to the growing ranks of polypharmacy patients, the number of adults taking at least one prescription drug grew from 51% of the population in the years 1999-2000 to 59% in 2011-2012, the most recent year data was available.

“The population has aged,” said lead author Elizabeth Kantor, an epidemiologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “Older people tend to take more drugs.”

So do heavier people. Several of the drugs that saw increasing use were for conditions linked to obesity.


2105, 03 November 2015


  1. scott

    It’s not so surprising. There are a lot more chronic diseases out there today to be managed, mostly because of an aging population (as the article indicates). What I’d really like to know is how our prescription rates compare to other countries.

    I’m prepared right off the bat to ban advertising of prescription drugs to consumers. I don’t have cable, but when I stayed at a friend’s place for a week who does I was appalled. Half the commercials on tv seem to be for prescription drugs, things consumers can’t even buy on their own. Somethings wrong there.

  2. Joey

    Yep, more bans. Right on.
    And of course more price controls on drugs.
    And of course more $$ for entitlements.
    Scott – do you work??

  3. scott

    Um, who said anything about entitlements or price controls? As far as bans on television prescription drug ads, it seems to work everywhere else. And don’t pretend we don’t ban certain types of ads already. We most certainly do, and liberty has not perished from the earth as a result.

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