The Nation’s medicine
cabinets are more crowded than ever, with almost half of all people taking
at least one prescription medicine and one in six taking three or more
medications, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’
(HHS) annual check-up on Americans’ health.
“Americans are taking
medicines that lower cholesterol and reduce the threat of heart disease,
that help lift people out of debilitating depressions, and that keep
diabetes in check,” said HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson.
The report, Health,
United States 2004 presents the latest health data collected by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for
Health Statistics and dozens of other Federal health agencies, academic and
professional health associations, and international health organizations.
The latest report shows
continued improvements in Americans’ health, with life expectancy at birth
up to 77.3 years in 2002, a record, and deaths from heart disease, cancer
and stroke – the nation’s three leading killers – all down 1 percent to 3
Prescription drug use is
rising among people of all ages, and use increases with age. Five out of six
persons 65 and older are taking at least one medication and almost half the
elderly take three or more.
Adult use of
antidepressants almost tripled between 1988-1994 and 1999-2000. Ten percent
of women 18 and older and 4 percent of men now take antidepressants.
Prescriptions for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants,
blood glucose/sugar regulators and cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, in
particular, increased notably between 1996 and 2002.
The National Health and
Nutrition Examination Survey found a 13 percent increase between 1988-1994
and 1999-2000 in the proportion of Americans taking at least one drug and a
40 percent jump in the proportion taking three or more medicines. Forty-four
percent reported taking at least one drug in the past month and 17 percent
were taking three or more in the 2000 survey.
The annual report to
Congress showed that health expenditures climbed 9.3 percent in 2002 to $1.6
trillion. Although prescription drugs comprise only one-tenth of the total
medical bill, they remain the fastest growing expenditure. The price of
drugs rose 5 percent, but wider use of medicines pushed total expenditures
up 15.3 percent in 2002. Drug expenditures have risen at least 15 percent
every year since 1998.
Medicare, the Federal
health insurance program for the Nation’s seniors and disabled residents,
will begin routinely paying for prescription drugs in January 2006. After a
$250 deductible, Medicare will cover three-quarters of drug costs up to
$2,250 a year.
The United States spent
14.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care in 2002, up
from 14.1 in 2001. Only two other countries, Switzerland and Germany, spent
as much as 11 percent of their GDP in 2001, the latest year that
international statistics were available. Canada was fourth at 9.7 percent of
Among the report’s findings:
times as many white adults as black or Mexican adults took antidepressants;
were prescribed drugs to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
(ADHD) twice as often as girls, but antidepressants were prescribed to boys
and girls at the same rates;
health insurance covered almost half of prescription drug costs in 2002, up
from a quarter in 1990. People paid 30 percent out of their own pockets.
Health, United States
includes a chart book of selected health measures and 153 trend tables with
current and historical information on health status, health care
utilization, resources and expenditures. The data are presented by age, sex,
race and ethnic background, and some measures are also shown by State.
The report also found
that life expectancy at birth rose to 74.5 years for men and 79.9 years for
women in 2002. For those turning 65, life expectancy is age 81.6 for men and
84.5 for women.
Other noteworthy findings:
and ethnic disparities in mortality persist, but the gaps in life expectancy
between the sexes and between the black and white population are narrowing;
from on-the-job injuries fell 23 percent between 1992 and 2002 to 4 deaths
per 100,000 workers.
accounted for 36 percent of visits to emergency departments in 2001-2002.
The full Health,
United States report is available on the CDC Website at the CDC/NCHS