Canadians using more prescription drugs

Are you taking more prescription drugs than you used to? Most of us are, according to a company that tracks worldwide pharmaceutical sales.

A report from IMS Health says the number of prescriptions filled by Canadians rose by more than seven per cent in 2008 over the previous year. And it’s a trend that’s been going on for several years.

You’d think the aging of the population would explain this. But according Steve Morgan, a health economist and researcher at the University of British Columbia, the greying of Canada’s population accounts for an increase of only about one per cent a year.

He attributes the spike to more new medicines and more marketing to both doctors and patients.

He says it’s also happening because doctors are prescribing drugs to manage risk factors for things like heart disease and stroke. Pills to lower cholesterol levels are a good example.

Does this mean Canadians are taking too many drugs?

That would be a good topic for research, especially since there are huge differences in medicine use across the country. Western Canadians account for a considerably smaller proportion of drug use than their eastern counterparts.

By the numbers, prescription spending hit nearly 21 and a half billion dollars last year. In all, pharmacists dispensed 453 million prescriptions, for an average of  14 for each of us.

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