News from the FDA/CDC

Prescription drug use varies between U.S. and Canada


The United States and Canada deliver health care in different ways, and patterns of prescription drug use also vary between the two countries, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Past 30-day use of the most common prescription drug types

The populations of the two countries, however, have similar age distributions – adults aged 40-79 years made up 44% of the population in the United States and 48% in Canada in 2016 – so “monitoring the use of prescription drugs provides insights into the health and health care of U.S. and Canadian adults,” the NCHS investigators wrote.

Data from the 2015-2016 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey show that 15% of Americans aged 40-59 years had used antidepressants in the past 30 days, putting them ahead of lipid-lowering drugs (14%) and ACE inhibitors (11%), the NCHS said in a recent Data Brief.

Analgesics were the leading drug type in Canada, with 10% of adults aged 40-59 years reporting use in the past month, although that’s still lower than in the United States (11%), where they were fourth in popularity. The American top two were second and third among Canadians, while proton pump inhibitors were fourth in Canada but did not crack the top five in the United States, the NCHS reported based on 2016-2017 data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey.

Past 30-day use of the most common prescription drug types Past 30-day use of the most common prescription drug types

Older adults (60-79 years) in the two countries managed to share some common ground: Lipid-lowering drugs were the most commonly used prescription medication both north and south of the border, although past 30-day use was considerably higher in the United States (45% vs. 34%), the NCHS investigators said.

There were differences to be found, however, in the older age group. Analgesics were the second most commonly used drug type in Canada but did not even reach the top five in the United States, while beta-blockers were third among Americans but missed the Canadian top five, they noted.

Americans aged 40-59 years were significantly more likely than Canadians to have used at least one prescription drug of any type in the past 30 days (60% vs. 53%) and to have used at least five such drugs (15% vs. 10%). The differences among adults aged 60-79 were not significant, although American use was higher for at least one drug (84% vs. 83%) and for at least five (35% vs. 31%), according to the report.

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