Harvard Women's Health Watch

Prescription drug use continues to increase, survey shows

Research we're watching

A nationwide survey conducted by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health indicates that prescription drug use rose from 51% of U.S. adults in the 1999–2000 calendar year to 59% in 2011–2012. In 2012, women were taking more prescription medications than men, with 65% taking at least one drug and 16% taking more than five.

Although the use of postmenopausal hormones declined, women's prescriptions for blood pressure medication, cholesterol-lowering drugs, antidepressants, and diabetes medications rose significantly. The study was published in the Nov. 3, 2015, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

These data may reflect another reality—that women are more likely to get regular medical care and fill their prescriptions than men are. But as more women take more drugs simultaneously, they are at increased risk for side effects and drug interactions. If you're taking several drugs—even if some of them are over-the-counter medications—be sure to review them with your clinician at your next visit.