Why does the U.S. use 75% of the world's prescription medications?

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Blogging2, thank you for providing this interesting statistic... a statistic that wouldn't surprise me at all if it were true (and I would take your word, blogging)!

Most of what I'm about to say is opinion. A lot of it includes my thoughts on the state of the world and how the United States relates to the rest of the Earth's nations.

I think that the answer to this great question has a lot to do with the following information:

  • According to a report by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University, in 2000, the United States accounted for 4.7 percent of the world’s population, but 32.6 percent of the world’s wealth
  • Nearly 4 of every 10 people included in the wealthiest 1 percent of the world were American
  • The average American had a net worth of nearly $144,000, as opposed to $2,600 for the average Chinese person
  • According to data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the richest 1 percent of Americans held 32 percent of the nation’s wealth in 2001
  • A recent study by Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty of the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, found that in 2004 the top 1 percent of Americans earned a higher share of the nation’s income than at any time since the 1920s. That share was still only 16 percent

Additionally...

  • Between 1970 and 1990, the typical American worked an additional 163 hours a year. That's like adding an extra month of work per year... with the same pay or less
  • Spending on luxury goods grew by 21 percent from 1995 to 1996 while general merchandise sales grew only 5 percent
  • Household debt as a percentage of personal income rose from 58 percent in 1973 to an estimated 85 percent in 1997
  • In 1997, 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy. That's basically 7,000 bankruptcies an hour, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week

These facts sell out something pretty clear to me: More money means more money to spend, as seen in the last few facts. People have more money to spend on "luxury" goods, and getting that money means more hours at work. More hours at work mean more stress, which can cause more health issues, which call for more drugs. If people can afford stronger drugs than those that can be found on drugstore shelves, why not buy them? After all, they are readily available after a doctor's appointment.

Here are some more facts:

  • According to a study by Donald Vandegrift of The College of New Jersey and Anusua Datta of the School of Business Administration at Philadelphia University, during 1990–1998, expenditures on prescription drugs in the United States increased by 84 percent
  • Around 8 percent of the increase in spending on prescription drugs during that time can be explained by increasing rates of obesity. Also, rising incomes account for about 55 percent of the increase!

To be fair, people are also living longer now, as as people age, the use for prescription drugs grows more reasonable.

Perhaps it can also be said that people feel better about things when they can physically take something to cure it. For instance, if someone is feeling stressed out or if they have a headache, taking a pill for it might make them feel more resolved in their quest for a cure or solution, rather than just trying to psyche one's way out of it.

About 9 million Americans used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in 1999, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Surely that adds to the numbers!

However, the amounts dispensed are decreasing... Prescription drugs are growing more expensive!

If you are an American, have you ever taken prescription drugs when you didn't need them?

  • Yes
  • No
  • By accident
See results without voting

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Comments 13 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Oh dear. I wonder if I'm really Chinese? My net worth is about average for mainland China. . .


Lisa HW profile image

Lisa HW 7 years ago from Massachusetts

This is an excellent and informative Hub, and I don't necessarily disagree with any of your points. I tend to think that Americans, in general, have often come to "worship" science and medicine as "gods"; and (even though a healthy respect for knowledge/expertise is always a sensible thing) have often been a little too ready to look to these for solutions/approaches that their own common sense and coping skills may, in a lot of cases, better provide. Besides, it's more comfortable to think of anything as a "disorder". If it isn't a "disorder" it usually means there's a serious, complicated, problem in someone's life (often that has no solutions, or that requires an awful lot of "figuring out" and making hard choices); and a lot of people don't have the stomach for that kind of thing.


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

I think it is more like they are blindfolded into listening to others more than their own bodies. Ever heard of the Illuminati?


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

A couple of other reasons: big pharmaceutical companies spend more on bribing doctors to prescribe their latest drugs than they do on research and they spend a lot on advertising prescription drugs so that patients will request them from their doctors. They also spend millions on lobbying Congress.


jim10 profile image

jim10 7 years ago from ma

I think it is because if a pharmaceutical company can come up with a drug then figure out what it does. They can then come up with a name for something many Americans have and convince Americans that they must have this disease and it can be cured with their overpriced drug. For example when I was growing up in the 80's plenty of kids couldn't sit still. They just had lots of energy. Today it is considered ADHD and they are prescribed Ritilin to keep them still in school. I'm sure it might help some kids but, for a lot it is just to get them to sit still. Parents could cut out sugar and cure the disease too. But, that wouldn't make any companies rich. A lot of people have little idiosyncrisies and if TV ads convince them it is a problem by giving it a name then they will try to fix it. My friend is always tapping on everything. When he sits down his legs are always moving. And it seems they are moving to music. He thinks clearly and is perfectly normal. But, I bet a doctor would prescribe him medicine for restless leg syndrome. To me it seems as though the side effects far outweigh the cure. I don't want to get rid of my stuffy nose and itchy eyes just to end up with possible vomiting and diarrhea.


RVDaniels profile image

RVDaniels 7 years ago from Athens, GA

Interesting, we are ptoductive and that makes us ill. It should be illegal to advertise prescribed drugs.


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California Author

Thank you all for your great comments and good points... And thanks for not prescribing to whatever people tell you! I hope many others read what you have written...


Caregiver-007 profile image

Caregiver-007 7 years ago from Florida

Well researched hub with great points. The story goes deeper, as "Lady Guinevere" implies. I just read an article (not my own) that I found through Twitter (@MargHamp) which is right on point. You might find it very interesting- http://tinyurl.com/drugAm entitled "Administering Food And Drugs" - why we are such a sick, drugged-up society and getting worse. Shocking!


Lady Guinevere profile image

Lady Guinevere 7 years ago from West Virginia

I also just wrote a hub about Sugar and you would be surprised what that stuff is in and how it makes us ill and then we get diagnosed with some other problem and it goes deeper than that even: http://hubpages.com/hub/Sugar-In-Diguise--How-Much...


glassvisage profile image

glassvisage 7 years ago from Northern California Author

Thank you two for including the additional resources!


packerpack profile image

packerpack 7 years ago from India, Calcutta

I try to avoid medicines as much as possible. I would rather prefer to take thinks from nature then in the form of tablets and pills. Pills are always last option for me when I do not see any way out. I see many people taking pills for even slightest of headache and cold. I have been solving these problems with simple herbs and proper intake of fruits. so I can safely say that I do not contribute to that 75%


G-Ma Johnson profile image

G-Ma Johnson 7 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

OMG it is such a fight too with my mom and her Alzheimer's... they just changed pills without asking me...I came unglued and researched it and am in a big fight with the provider as well as the doctor...well not really fighting...everytime we go to the doctors they have a salesman there to leave samples...I mean it doesn't seem to matter what time our appt. is either...in and out...

Chemicals are killing us and giving us all this terrible stuff...God has put things on this earth that are natural and work fine...I take them everyday...anyway I am done ranting...Well done hub my dear..just makes one feel so helpless sometimes...but I keep trying...God Bless :O) Hugs G-Ma


zzron profile image

zzron 6 years ago from Houston, TX.

Thank you very much, really good info.

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