Americans made an estimated 890 million visits to the doctor in 2002, a 1 percent increase from the previous year, according to a survey released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
High blood pressure, colds, sore throats, diabetes and arthritis were the most frequently diagnosed conditions, according to doctors who participated in the CDC’s annual tracking of office-based medical care.
Military physicians and doctors employed by the federal government were not included in the survey.
Researchers said the findings reflected the overall graying of the U.S. population.
“What is driving up the visits here are the people who are getting older,” said David Woodwell, a statistician with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.
Multiple prescriptions increasing
Family physicians and other primary care specialists handled 60 percent of patient visits in 2002, according to the CDC survey. Drugs were ordered, prescribed or administered in two-thirds of all trips to the doctor.
The Atlanta-based federal agency noted that the tendency of doctors to prescribe more than one drug to a patient had helped fuel a 25 percent jump in legal drug use in the past decade.
Multiple prescriptions have been shown to raise the chances of dangerous drug interactions.
Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antidepressants and antihistamines were the most commonly prescribed medications in 2002. Use of these drugs rose between 10 percent and 48 percent in the 1995-2002 period.
Use of antidepressants soared 124 percent in children during the period, a finding that could fuel a growing debate over the appropriate use of Prozac and other mood-altering drugs in young people.
A recent analysis by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested a link between some antidepressants and suicidal thoughts and behaviors among children and teenagers.