Prescription for Aging

Okay, the time has come to admit it: I am getting older.

I’ve seen the signs for a while. The date on my driver’s license is a sign. So is the arrival of an AARP card in the mail a few years ago.

But it was my recent visit to the doctor’s office for my annual physical that really clinched it.

My doctor prescribed a medication for me. When I asked how long I would be taking it, he replied with a smile, “Most likely, for the rest of your life. After all, you are getting older!”

At least he smiled when he said it.

And, it turns out, at least I am not alone.

There is new research from the Mayo Clinic, a non-profit medical and research center, that finds roughly 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug and more than half receive at least two prescriptions.

About 25% of U.S. patients take five or more medications.

The most prescribed drugs, according to the study, are antibiotics, antidepressants, and painkillers. 

All that medication is pretty expensive. It added up to about $250 billion in 2009, which is about 12% of the nation’s total health care bill. 

Researchers also believe our spending on medications will only increase in the future. That’s partly due to the fact the population is getting older.

As I said, at least I’m not alone. 

- Frank Graff

Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!

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