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Prescription Drug Use Varies Widely Between States

Until now, your age and gender were among the best indicators of how you might use prescription drugs. With today's release of the first comprehensive state-by-state study of prescription drug use, where you live also can say a lot about which and how many medications you use. //

According to the study, the percentage of adult beneficiaries obtaining at least one prescription in 2000 ranged from a high of 71 percent in Kansas to a low of 58 percent in California. The average number of prescriptions per member per year varied from 8.3 in New York to 12.2 in Kentucky. Generally, prescription drug use was lower in the Northeast and West, and higher in the South and Midwest. For children, the percentage receiving at least one prescription varied from a high of 64 percent in Louisiana to a low of 48 percent in Arizona, with use higher in the Midwest and West South Central and lower in the West.

On a state-by-state basis, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi ranked in the top five in usage for more than ten of the 23 therapy classes. Among the lowest utilizing states, Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon and Vermont appeared in the bottom five 12 times or more and never appeared among the top five for any therapy class.

Variation in non-chronic therapy classes was greatest for cough/cold/allergy medications and in chronic classes for calcium channel blockers. Louisiana had the highest prevalence of use of cough/cold/allergy medications, with 23 percent using at least one prescription, while Vermont had the lowest prevalence of use at 7.5 percent.

Among children, the greatest variation was found for cough/cold/allergy products, followed by stimulant therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and antibiotic cephalosporins. Overall, children exhibited greater variation than adults for most therapy classes. Whether greater variation is warranted for children or whether it reflects greater uncertainty by physicians in the tre atment of childhood ailments is an important area for further research.
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