Overprescribed Medications for US Adults: Four Major Examples

Daniel J. Safer


To understand possible medication overprescribing, it would be important to know which classes are the most prescribed, for which indications, for what duration, and for which age groups. Among the 10 most frequently prescribed medication classes for US adults, four were evaluated for overprescribing, and systematically assessed in relation to their primary indication. The assessment included usage patterns, trends, age of recipients, treatment duration, and benefits versus adverse consequences. The findings in this selective review are supported by an extensive search of the medical literature. The four selected medication categories and their most common indication included opioids for chronic pain, proton pump inhibitors for indigestion, levothyroxine for subclinical hypothyroidism, and antidepressants for subsyndromal levels of depression. These medications, grouped by their most frequent indication along with polypharmacy, have experienced major prescription increases in recent years, particularly among older patients. Most concerning is that they have been frequently prescribed for extended periods, usually with inadequate evidence of benefit. High drug usage patterns can aid in quantifying overprescribing within polypharmacy by age group.

J Clin Med Res. 2019;11(9):617-622
doi: https://doi.org/10.14740/jocmr3906


Polypharmacy; Overprescribing; Opioids; Proton pump inhibitors; Levothyroxine; Antidepressants; Overmedicating

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