Prescription Drug Use Steadily Increasing, Research Finds

By Brent McCluskey 06/04/15

Americans collectively spent $374 billion on prescription drugs in 2014.

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Nearly 70% of Americans are on prescription medication for one reason or another and 20% are taking more than five, and according to new research out of Mayo Clinic and Olmsted Medical Center, those numbers are going nowhere but up.

Along with massive amounts of prescription medication comes a great deal of money. According to a recent study by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, Americans spent a collective $374 billion on their medication in 2014 alone, up from $325 billion the year before.

The most commonly prescribed drug in 2014 was Levothyroxine at 120 million prescriptions, followed by hydrocodone at 119 million, Lisinopril at 104 million, Metoprolol at 85 million, and Atorvastatin at 81 million.

Four of the top five prescribed drugs of 2014 are used to treat health conditions like hypothyroidism, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Hydrocodone is the only drug in the top five used to treat pain.

The fact that hydrocodone, a highly addictive painkiller, is one of the most commonly prescribed medications in America is cause for alarm and may be contributing to the rising opioid addiction.

The top five prescription drugs are relatively inexpensive, with hydrocodone being the priciest at $12 for a 30-day prescription. However, various discounts exist to help relieve the financial burden of prolonged prescription drug use.

Some websites offer coupons for those patients who pay cash for their prescriptions, and online pharmacies can cut the retail price by 35%.

Some states, like Washington and Kentucky, offer drug discount cards for qualifying low-income patients. But if you don’t live in one of said states there are also nonprofit organizations who help ensure low-income patients can afford their medications.

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Brent McCluskey is a Social Media Editor at International Business Times as well as a Jedi with Sith tendencies.  He is also a reader of books, slayer of dragons, and level 80 mage.

“Yeah, I have a broad skill set. If I had to pick between being a Divergent or a wizard, I'd pick a wizard.”  His wizardness can be found on Twitter and Linkedin.