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Prescription drug use in the United States, 2015–2016
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  • Description:
    Key findings

    • Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

    • In 2015–2016, 45.8% of the U.S. population used prescription drugs in the past 30 days.

    • Prescription drug use increased with age, from 18.0% of children under age 12 years to 85.0% of adults aged 60 and over.

    • Prescription drug use was highest among non-Hispanic white persons followed by non-Hispanic black persons, and lowest among non-Hispanic Asian and Hispanic persons.

    • The most commonly used types of drugs included bronchodilators for ages 0–11 years, central nervous system stimulants for ages 12–19, antidepressants for ages 20–59, and lipid-lowering drugs for ages 60 and over.

    • The percentage of the U.S. population that used prescription drugs decreased over the preceding decade.

    Monitoring prescription drug use patterns at the population level (1) can inform research and clinical practice. These patterns may shift over time in response to changing health needs, updated clinical guidelines (2) policy changes, and other factors (1,3). The percentage of the U.S. population that used one or more prescription drugs increased from 1999–2000 through 2007–2008 (4). This report describes prescription drug use by age, sex, and race and Hispanic origin in 2015–2016 and trends over the preceding decade.

    Suggested citation: Martin CB, Hales CM, Gu Q, Ogden CL. Prescription drug use in the United States, 2015–2016. NCHS Data Brief, no 334. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2019.



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