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Study: Americans on chronic medicines

May 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
For the first time, it appears that more than half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medicines regularly for chronic health problems, a study shows. When Pharmacist Harold Capeloto started out 40 years ago, dispensing medication used to be simple, today it's a challenge.

"Some of them are on 10 to 15 different medications. They could be going to different types of doctors, a lot of drug therapy," said Pharmacist Harold Capeloto.

He's always looking for potential drug interactions and according to a new report his job is just going to get harder.

MedCo Health Solutions, an insurance company, conducted a study and says for the first time half of all insured Americans are taking prescription medication regularly for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and asthma.

"I am taking Zyrtec and Cingular," said Lillian Gavina, who suffers from asthma and allergies.

At one point, Lillian Gavina was also on various inhalers and steroids.

"I even took prednisone for a whole month when I was very sick," adds Gavina.

With public health worsening, doctors writing more prescriptions and drug makers making new ones all the time, experts say the number of Americans taking prescription drugs for chronic conditions can only grow.

Another factor is the pharmaceutical industry's relentless advertising.

"Advertising affects the drug industry just like any other industry. The food industry and the clothing industry, it affects the drugs and how people perceive what it can do for them," said Capeloto.

Drug use for chronic problems has increased in all groups: Almost two thirds of women 20 and older; 52 percent of adult men; and three out of four seniors. The most troubling trend? One fourth of kids and teenagers are dosing regularly.

"Well for ADHD for hyperactive children that's been an increase," said Capeloto.

Capeloto makes a living doling out prescriptions, but he'd like to see his clients eat better, exercise more and take less meds.

"We wait for something to happen and then we treat it instead of being proactive and try to treat the disease before it happens," adds Capeloto.

Capeloto say he's afraid many people think it's a lot easier to pop a pill than go exercise.

The biggest jump was in the 20 to 44-year-old age group where medication use rose 20 percent from 2001 to 2007.

 

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