Prescription Drug Use in the United States, 2015–2016

Questions for Lead Author Crescent Martin, Health Statistician, of “Prescription Drug Use in the United States, 2015–2016.”

Q: Why did you decide to do a report on prescription drug use in the United States?

CM: We wanted to update a previous report that found an increase in prescription drug use from 1999–2000 through 2007–2008, using the latest available data from 2015–2016.


Q: Do you have data for the years between 2007-2008 and 2015-2016 on prescription drug use?

CM: Yes, the trends analysis (shown in Figure 4) includes an estimate for each two-year survey cycle from 2007–2008 through 2015–2016 (i.e. 5 time points over the decade.)


Q: How did the data vary by age, sex and race?

CM: The percentage of the population that used prescription drugs increased with age among every group we looked at: overall, among both males and females, and among each race and Hispanic origin group.

By sex, prescription drug use was higher among females than males, though this overall difference was primarily driven by the difference observed among adults aged 20–59. Among children age 11 and younger, a higher percentage of boys than girls used prescription drugs.

Prescription drug use was highest among Non-Hispanic white persons, followed by non-Hispanic black persons, and was lowest among non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic persons. This pattern also varied by age, and among adults aged 60 and over no differences were observed between race and Hispanic origin groups.


Q: Was there a specific finding in your report that surprised you?

CM: I was interested to see the different types of prescription drugs that were most commonly used within each age group. The most commonly used types of prescription drugs were bronchodilators (such as asthma rescue inhalers) for children aged 11 and under, central nervous system stimulants for adolescents aged 12-19, antidepressants for adults aged 20-59, and cholesterol-lowering drugs for adults aged 60 and over.

The top drug type for each age group was actually the same drug type that was most commonly used in 2007–2008, from the earlier report.


Q: What is the take home message for this report?

CM: Overall, almost half of the U.S. population took one or more prescription drugs in the past 30 days during 2015–2016.

When we look at trends over time and take into account how the age distribution of the US population has gotten older over this decade, we see a decline in the use of prescription drugs from 2007–2008 through 2015–2016.

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