Americans will spend half their lives taking prescription drugs: Penn State study


If you’re American, you’re probably using drugs or will one day soon be using drugs.

A new study reveals that people born in America today will spend about half of their lives taking prescription drugs.

And for women, this number is closer to 60% of their lives.

Study author Dr. Jessica Ho of Pennsylvania State University said in a press release that the number of years people can spend taking prescription drugs is now higher than the number of years they can spend married. first, go to school or join the workforce.

As an American, she added, I want to know what drugs I’m putting in my body and how long I can take them. It is important to recognize the central role prescription drug use plays in our lives.

Drugs are overprescribed

And it’s not just one drug: Polypharmacy, where a person takes five or more drugs at the same time, has increased to alarming levels.

In the mid-1990s, most people taking prescription drugs were taking just one drug. But today, people who take prescription medications may end up taking five or more medications at once.

A 2019 report found that antidepressants, opioid painkillers, proton pump inhibitors to treat indigestion, and levothyroxine to treat thyroid problems were among the over-prescribed drugs. highest level in the US.

Research elsewhere has revealed that antibiotics are often prescribed for symptoms such as a sore throat or cough when they should not be because most of those conditions are caused by viruses that cause the antibiotics to attack the bacteria. become useless.

From 1980 to 2018, per capita spending on prescription drugs increased more than 700%, from $140 to $1,073.
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More drugs = more money

Long-term use of many prescription drugs can affect our health, but it also affects our wallets.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, from 1980 to 2018, per capita spending on prescription drugs increased more than 700%, from $140 to $1,073, adjusted for inflation.

Spending on prescription drugs reached $335 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach $875 billion by 2026.

The impact is higher for women

The average baby boy born in 2019 can expect to take prescription drugs for about 37 years, or 48% of his life. A new baby girl born in 2019 may have to wear them for about 47.5 years, or 60% of her life.

The study found the impact was greater for women because most American women used prescription drugs before age 15.

“We see that women start taking prescription medications earlier than men, and some of that has to do with contraception and hormones,” Ho said. But it’s also linked to women’s greater use of psychotherapy and painkillers.

Polypharmacy, where an individual uses five or more drugs at the same time, has increased to alarming levels.
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Reduce drug costs

There are several ways to save on prescription drug costs: Switching from brand name drugs to generic drugs is one strategy. And mail-order pharmacies may charge less for drugs than traditional pharmacies, according to

Some pharmaceutical companies offer programs to help pay for drugs, including for people enrolled in Medicare Part D drug coverage.

States also often offer help paying for prescriptions, drug plan premiums, and other drug costs, often called State Pharmaceutical Assistance Programs.

Additionally, Medicare and Social Security have a program called Extra Help, which is a way for people with limited income and resources to get help with prescription drug costs.

Ho says this article is not meant to say that using prescription drugs is good or bad. Clearly, they have made a difference in the treatment of many conditions, but there are growing concerns about how much treatment is too much.

There are numerous studies showing that Americans are less healthy and live shorter lives than their peers in other high-income countries. Prescription drugs are part of that reality. What we found is that, even above and beyond what we expected to see, prescription drug use rates in the United States are extremely high.

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