Drug Trends, Polypharmacy & Risks

Drug Trends in NZ

The 2010 PHARMAC Annual Report says the number of New Zealanders receiving funded medicine rose to 3.2 million in 2009/2010 causing the government to increase pharmaceutical spending by $40 million dollars. As of 2015/2016, there was a 3% increase in the number of prescription items for medicines that were already funded at 30 June 2015. The Combined Pharmaceutical Budget 2015/2016 saw the number of funded prescription items filled increase by 3% to 44.4 million.


Table 1. The Most Commonly Prescribed/Funded/Subsidised Drugs in NZ in 2016

Top 20 medicines by prescriptions

Medicine Prescriptions Rank
Paracetamol 2,570,000 1
Aspirin 1,320,000 2
Omeprazole 1,260,000 3
Amoxicillin 1,230,000 4
Atorvastatin 1,100,000 5
Ibuprofen 970,000 6
Metoprolol succinate 960,000 7
Salbutamol 870,000 8
Amoxicillin with clavulanic acid 780,000 9
Cilazapril 730,000 10
Simvastatin 730,000 11
Cholecalciferol 710,000 12
Prednisone 620,000 13
Metformin hydrochloride 540,000 14
Influenza vaccine 540,000 15
Zopiclone 540,000 16
Loratadine 510,000 17
Diclofenac sodium 500,000 18
Codeine phosphate 460,000 19
Felodipine 460,000 20

As we can see from Table 1, the most common reasons people seek drugs is for pain, heart-related issues, asthma, cholesterol, bacterial infections, anti-inflammatory and also reflux, asthma, osteoporosis and diabetes.

Drug Trends In The UK

In the UK, the 2013 Report by Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community (2003-2013) revealed the number of prescription items dispensed in the community has increased by 58.5 per cent since 2003. Over 1.03 billion items were prescribed in 2013 compared to 649.7 million in 2003. The overall Net Ingredient Cost (NIC) of prescriptions has increased by 14.8 per cent since 2003.  In 2013 the overall NIC of prescriptions stood at £8.63 billion, compared to £7.51 billion in 2003. The leading British National Formulary (BNF) were diabetic and anti-depressant medication. Ninety per cent of all prescription items are dispensed free of charge.

What Are The Risks Involved With Drug Use On The Rise?

Drugs are necessary for some people and in certain situations, however the skyrocketing trends of drug use and dependence today are genuinely alarming. One of the accompanying issues with the increase of drug treatment is polypharmacy. People begin to take so many drugs at the same time that there can be dangerous interactions. Drugs are tested in a trial singly and are prescribed for a single symptom or illness, however yes it is common practice to be taking many medications at one time. Clinical drug trials are conducted over approximately 4 to 6 weeks, whereas people can take a medication for a lifetime. It is also difficult to obtain information about a particular drug that is free from industry bias.


Medical and Chinese Medicine Approaches

Medicine treats the disease/symptom and not the patient and their underlying pattern. Chinese medicine treats the person holistically (healing meaning to make whole), it considers the person’s lifestyle, actions and history to how it has created an imbalance in the body. It aims through various treatments including mind, acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping, moxa, dietary and lifestyle to allow the patient’s body to restore to balance and then provide them with advice and effective treatment to reduce that chances of the issue recurring.

Assessing Polypharmacy and Reducing Your Medications

If you want to check the amount of drugs you are taking and reduce them you can work with your health practitioner and medical GP to do this in a safe and slow manner to allow your body to get stronger and become less reliant on the medications.

At Femme Vital in Melbourne, expect the best holistic health consultation, tailored treatment and advice with 10 years experience supporting wellbeing with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Call Ilana on 0466866450 or send her an email to info@ilanasowter.com for more information.