By Jonathan Springston, Associate Managing Editor, AHC Media

The number of adults 20 years of age and older taking prescription medication increased from 51 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2012, according to a recently released study based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. During the same period, American adults taking five or more prescriptions nearly doubled during the same time period, from 8 percent in 2000 to 15 percent in 2012.

Of the prescribed medications, eight of the 10 most commonly used are for issues such as hypertension, heart failure, and diabetes, suggesting Americans are increasingly ingesting prescription drugs to treat various maladies stemming from obesity.

William Elliott, MD, FACP, editor of Pharmacology Watch, concurs.

“The epidemic in obesity and type 2 diabetes are the main factors. The most commonly prescribed medications are for cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes mellitus treatment,” he said. “Better coverage, including Medicare Part D and the Affordable Care Act, means more people can afford medications.”

Dr. Elliott also attributed the trend to the corresponding rise in the direct-to-patient advertising of medications.

Twice per month, Dr. Elliott, along with James Chan, PharmD, MD, produce "Pharmacology Update" for Internal Medicine Alert, providing unbiased expert advice on the latest FDA-approved drugs. Released monthly, Pharmacology Watch provides evidence-based updates on clinical pharmacology. Along with the monthly Clinical Briefs in Primary Care, Pharmacology Watch is a supplement to the following family of AHC Media publications: Clinical Cardiology Alert, Critical Care Alert, Hospital Medicine Alert, Infectious Disease Alert, Internal Medicine Alert, Integrative Medicine Alert, Neurology Alert, OB/GYN Clinical Alert, and Primary Care Reports.

Click here to learn more about and subscribe to all AHC Media publications.