How Many People Take Prescription Drugs?

The use of prescription drugs for treating ailments is common in many areas of the world. In the United States, it is estimated that almost half of all residents have used at least one prescription medication within the past 30 days. During 2008, visits to U.S. physicians resulted in prescribing or providing of 2.3 billion medications. Patients admitted to U.S. hospitals during that same year received a total of 280.1 million medications. In the case of emergency room visits, 238.3 million prescription drugs were dispensed or ordered, with 78 percent of all emergency room patients receiving at least one drug during their visits.

More facts about prescription medications:

  • According to IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a firm that analyzes data related to medication use, 78 percent of the medications dispensed in the U.S. during 2010 were generic rather than brand-name medications.

  • The most frequently prescribed medications dispensed by physicians are analgesics, antidepressants and antihyperlipidemic agents, which help lower the lipid levels in a person's blood.

  • Information from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse indicated that roughly 36 million residents of the U.S. had abused prescription drugs at least one time. The survey participants included residents who were at least 12 years old.

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