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Report: More than Half of Americans With Health Insurance Now Take Chronic Medications

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51% of Insured Americans on Medications

May 14, 2008 -- A new report shows that for the first time, more than half of Americans with health insurance are taking medications for chronic conditions.

The report comes from Medco Health Solutions Inc., a pharmacy benefits management company. Medco analyzed data on more than 2.7 million insured Americans in 2007 and found that 51% took chronic medications in 2007, up from 47% in 2001-2002 and from 50% in 2003-2006.

"It appears that we have now reached the tipping point where treating chronic diseases and conditions is more common than not," says Robert Epstein, MD, Medco's chief medical officer, in a news release.

In 2007, the top six chronic conditions for medication treatment were:

  1. High blood pressure (hypertension)
  2. Lipids (such as cholesterol)
  3. Allergies
  4. Depression
  5. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  6. Ulcer and heartburn

Senior citizens are the most likely to take chronic medications. But among women aged 20-44, nearly half -- 48% -- took chronic medications in 2007, with antidepressants being their most common type of prescription drug.

Here are the percentages of people on at least one chronic medication in 2007:

  • Girls aged 0-19: 24%
  • Boys aged 0-19: 28%
  • Men aged 20 and older: 52%
  • Women aged 20 and older: 64%

Among people taking chronic medications, 36% take one drug, 24% take two drugs, 16% take three drugs, 10% take four drugs, and 14% take five or more medications.

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